MANILA — The Department of Health on Friday said the government is in talks with more than a dozen COVID-19 vaccine developers as the country continues to grapple with the fast-spreading disease.
“We have about 16 vaccine manufacturers na may different stages ng pag-uusap (that are in different stages of talks),” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing.
Vergeire added that there are also 9 vaccine manufacturers who are part of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility, an international collaboration to speed up the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments.
As a member of the COVAX facility, the Philippines is assured of equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Vergeire said this when asked about updates on the negotiations for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
She emphasized that the government is exploring other avenues, including the upcoming World Health Organization (WHO) Solidarity Trial for vaccines.
“We are not very specific na sa Russian vaccine lang (on just the Russian vaccine),” she said.
While the Philippines has long been in talks with Chinese manufacturers who are among the vaccine frontrunners, Russia made headway this week by granting regulatory approval for its vaccine for limited use.
Government officials said the Philippines might be included in Russia’s Phase III clinical trials, which could begin in September or October.
Asked if the Philippines will have the capability for local production of vaccines since Russia said it would allow it, Vergeire said there are plans in place.
She said there are already talks for possible public-private partnerships.
“Mayroon tayong dating vaccine institute sa RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) kaso hindi na nag-move forward,” she explained. “Titignan natin ngayon ADB (Asian Development Bank) has this grant na tinutulungan ngayon ay RITM at ginagawan ng feasibility study at tinitingnan ano ang puwedeng gawin para matuloy ang vaccine institute sa RITM.”
(We used to have a vaccine institute in RITM but it didn’t move forward. We’ll see, ADB has this grant helping out RITM to make a feasibility study and we’ll see if the vaccine institute at RITM can push through.)
She said one possibility is to ship the vaccine and to do the “fill and finish” part in the Philippines. This involves transferring the vaccine to vials or other containers.