MANILA — It will take at least one year to prepare a vaccine for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) but the Philippines could soon prepare for its arrival, an official of the World Health Organization in the Philippines said Monday.
“1 year to 1 and a half years. Iyon po yung pinaka-shortest period na ang bakuna ay mapag-aralan na ligtas at epektibo at pwede nang gamitin ng tao,” WHO Philippines officer-in-charge Dr. Socorro Escalante said during the Department of Health’s televised briefing on Monday.
(1 to 1 and a half years. That’s the shortest period that a vaccine can be studied and proven to be safe, effective and can be used by humans.)
Experts are currently studying 6 candidate vaccines in different parts of the world, she said.
Escalante explained that it takes several stages before a vaccine is deemed effective and safe for public use.
Research alone will take at least 6 months, several laboratory experiments, and then tested on animals.
“After that, there will be clinical trials,” she said, explaining that there will be 3 phases for the trials.
Once deemed ready for distribution, the vaccine has to go through national regulatory authorities of each country intending to use it.
During that time, the vaccine will still have to be observed through a 4th phase of clinical trials to ensure that it is really safe.
In the meantime, Escalante said the Philippines should be preparing for the arrival of the vaccine.
“What is key is for the country to prepare its regulatory processes,” she said.
Escalante said the Food and Drug Administration can prepare its regulatory processes so it can quickly receive and register the vaccine.
She said the Philippine government should also prepare a vaccine strategy so it can prioritize those who need it most.
And in case the country would want to locally produce the vaccine, technology should be in place.
“Kailangan nang paghandaan yung production ng bansa (We should also prepare for production in the country). I think the Philippines really have experts and scientists that are world class,” she said. “But the technology has to be really adapted to vaccine.”
She said the Philippines should have laboratories that can test the quality and safety of he vaccine. Philippines must also have manufacturing capacity.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire meanwhile reminded Filipinos not to believe misleading information online, especially reports that claim that a vaccine against COVID-19 has been found.
“Doble ingat po sana tayo at wag maniniwala basta basta sa nagsasabing nadiscover na nila ang bakuna sa COVID-19,” she said.
(Let us be doubly careful and not easily believe those who say that the vaccine for COVID-19 has been discovered.)
Currently the world has yet to find a COVID-19 vaccine but there are multi-country clinical trials using off-label drugs and other treatments to combat the disease.
As of Monday, there have been 7,777 COVID-19 cases in the Philippines. Of that number, 932 have recovered and 511 have died.
President Rodrigo Duterte has offered a P50 million reward for any Filipino who will be able to create a vaccine.