MANILA - A public health expert said Tuesday he doesn't expect a COVID-19 vaccine to be available in the Philippines until the second quarter of 2021, urging the public to take coronavirus precautions more seriously.
Dr. Jaime Montoya, executive director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, tempered hopes that a safe and effective vaccine against the respiratory illness could be ready for use within the year.
"Base sa nalalaman namin at sa mga datos na available, hindi po yata, kung Pilipinas ang pag-uusapan, sa Pilipinas magkakaroon ng bakuna by December, mukhang sa ngayon po ay malabo po 'yun na mangyari," he told Teleradyo's "SRO" when asked after President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said a COVID-19 vaccine could be made available by December.
"Ang nakikita po naming mangyari, kung sa Pilipinas ang pag-uusapan, ang pinakamaaga na magkakaroon tayo ng bakuna na puwede ng gamitin, na naaprubahan na ng FDA (Food and Drug Administration), ay second quarter of next year," Montoya added.
There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Drugmakers around the world are racing to find cure to curb COVID-19, which has sickened more than 27 million people and killed over 890,000 since emerging in China.
If such a vaccine can then become available for public use, the Philippine government can obtain some 20 percent of its total demand through COVAX, Montoya said.
COVAX, led by Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO), is a global initiative working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries.
The COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be priced between P500 to P1,000 per shot if approved, Montoya said. Two doses of the vaccine could be given per person between 20 to 28 days apart, he added.
The infectious disease specialist also assured the public that the government has already allocated funds to procure the vaccine once it becomes available.
Asked how much of the population should be vaccinated to ensure herd immunity, Montoya said at least 60 percent.
"Kapag 60 percent ng population ay immune or protected by vaccine, titigil o babagal ang transmission ng virus," he said.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines reached 241,987 on Tuesday, as the Department of Health (DOH) reported 3,281 additional infections.
The nationwide caseload included 3,916 fatalities, 185,178 recoveries and 52,893 active cases.