MANILA — The Department of Health on Thursday said it is hopeful the Philippines will have access to COVID-19 vaccines soon.
“We share the same optimism with the President, that is why the Department of Health, FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and WHO (World Health Organization) are closely monitoring updates regarding the potential cure to this pandemic,” the DOH said in a statement to media.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said that the vaccine from China might be available by September this year.
“According to WHO, significant progress has been achieved by the COVAX partners to date, with seven of the nine candidate vaccines supported by CEPI already in clinical trials,” the DOH said.
CEPI stands for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations that coordinates the development of vaccines.
The DOH also added that the company AstraZeneca, whose vaccine with Oxford University is now in Phase III trials, has committed to supply 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to COVAX.
COVAX, of which the Philippines is a part, is under the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT)-Accelerator, a global collaboration to speed up the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments. It involves not just government institutions but also the private sector, civil society and the academe. Among the organizations participating are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the CEPI, and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance.
The DOH explained that Gavi, a public-private partnership for vaccination, launched the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) as “a financing instrument aimed at incentivising vaccine manufacturers to produce sufficient quantities of eventual COVID-19 vaccines to ensure access for developing countries.”
The AMC has raised $600 million of its $2 billion target, while Gavi is working with “developing countries to assure readiness of supply and cold chain and training to reach high risk groups,” the DOH said.
Based on the latest update of the WHO, the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine is now leading among candidate vaccines as it is in the Phase III or large-scale clinical trials already, alongside 3 vaccines from China.
Dr. Nina Gloriani, head of the Department of Science and Technology’s vaccine technical panel, earlier told ABS-CBN that the Philippines may start clinical trials with the Chinese vaccines approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force as early as August.
Although, Gloriani said she thinks the approved vaccine won’t be available in the Philippines until early 2021.
Despite the relatively quick progress of vaccine developers, some groups have expressed worry that poor countries won’t have access to the vaccine, which are being developed in richer countries like the United States.
But efforts such as COVAX aim to address this.