To acquire COVID-19 vaccine, best for Philippines to participate in clinical trials

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 08 2020 08:24 PM | Updated as of Jul 08 2020 10:39 PM

To acquire COVID-19 vaccine, best for Philippines to participate in clinical trials 1
Transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, isolated from a patient. Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID

MANILA — If the Philippines wants to be among the first to access vaccines for COVID-19, it would help if it participates in clinical trials, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said on Wednesday. 

“Ang ating pinakaepektibong estratehiya upang makamit natin ang ating objective ay ang partisipasyon natin sa mga clinical trials na isasagawa sa ating bansa sa pamamagitan ng ating pag-uusap sa mga nag-develop ng mga bakunang ito,” Dr. Jaime Montoya, executive director of the DOST’s Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, said in a televised briefing.

(The most effective strategy for us to achieve our objective is to participate in clinical trials in our country by talking to the vaccine developers.)

“Ito’y makakasiguro na ang bakuna ay magiging available sa Philippines,” he said.

(This will ensure that the vaccines will be available in the Philippines.)

He said it will also help expedite the registration of the vaccines with the Food and Drug Administration.

Montoya reiterated that the country will be joining the World Health Organization’s Solidarity Trial for vaccines.

Dr. Nina Gloriani, a University of the Philippines professor and chair of the vaccine development expert panel of the DOST, said that of the more than 100 vaccines being developed around the world, the Philippines is looking at the type that uses the inactivated COVID-19 virus. 

As opposed to vaccines using the live virus, this is deemed to be safer.

“Ang aming panel ay patuloy at masugid na tintutukan ang vaccine trials around the world,” she said, adding that among those that standout are the vaccines from Oxford University, the US company Moderna, and those coming from China.

(Our panel is continuously and diligently monitoring the vaccine trials around the world.)

She said there are currently five collaborations for vaccine trials approved by the Philippines’ Inter-Agency Task Force for COVID-19, namely:

China

  •  Chinese Academy of Science - Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health
  •  SINOPHARM: Wuhan Institute and Beijing Biologicals Institute
  •  SINOVAC Biotech Ltd.

Taiwan

  •  Adimmune Corporation
  •  Academia Sinica

Gloriani said they are also preparing for the possibility of holding clinical Phase III trials in the coming months. 

PREPARATIONS

Hospitals identified for the initial vaccine trials are the Philippine General Hospital, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Manila Doctors Hospital, San Lazaro Hospital and Vicente Sotto Medical Center.

She said clinical trial will likely involve 1,000 to 5,000 volunteers, depending on the allocation of the WHO and will be “double blind,” which means the investigator and the patient will not know if what was administered was a placebo or the vaccine.

The tentative timeline, based on her presentation, is October 2020 to March 2021.

Adults aged 18 to 59 who are at high risk for COVID-19 infection, such as health workers, frontliners and contacts of confirmed cases, are prioritized for the trials.

The elderly and children may be included in later trials.

Gloriani said evaluation will be done on the volunteers six months after immunization. There will also be follow-up monitoring for up to 12 months. 

She assured the public that the approval of the vaccine trials will go through many levels. 

Gloriani said the trials should show that the vaccines are safe and effective.

They will need the final approval of the Food and Drug Administration before being distributed to the public. 

As of Tuesday, the country had logged 47,873 total confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic started. Of those, 34,178 are active cases.

Experts have said that the pandemic will only end once the world develops a vaccine to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Until now, there has been no approved vaccine or treatment for the disease.