Gov't eyes 3 urban hubs as COVID-19 vaccine trial zones

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 10 2020 05:42 PM

People flock to rows of shops in Parañaque City on August 23, 2020 amid the return of Metro Manila under general community quarantine. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Three major urban hubs in the Philippines will serve as sites for COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials as the government rushes to find an end to the pandemic that has upended life worldwide.

Metro Manila, the Southern Tagalog region (Calabarzon), and Cebu will serve as vaccine trial zones, Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said Thursday.

"Ang pinipili kasing lugar ay iyong mataas ang incidence ng COVID-19," he said in a virtual press briefing.

(We choose places with high incidence of COVID-19).

"Usually it will require anywhere between five to 10 barangays (villages) for a trial," he added.

The three areas have reported high numbers of COVID-19 infections, with Metro Manila as the coronavirus epicenter of the country.

The government's pandemic task force earlier approved guidelines for the conduct of COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials which would require volunteers from villages with the highest number of coronavirus infections.

"Importante kasi na iyong lugar na pipiliin ay malapit doon sa mga lugar na mataas ang incidence o ang cases dahil ating susubukan ang efficacy nang bakuna," Dela Peña said.

(It's important that we choose an area near those that have high incidence of COVID-19 because we will test the efficacy of the vaccine.)

"Hindi puwedeng magdoble ang clinical trials sa isang zone," he noted.

(We cannot have duplicates of clinical trials in one zone.)

In assigning COVID-19 vaccine trial zones, Dela Peña said priority would be given to testing of drugs included in the World Health Organization's Solidarity Trials, a global coalition on the simultaneous development of vaccines.

Malacañang has expressed hopes that Manila would be prioritized by Russia, China, and the US should they develop a COVID-19 vaccine.

Moscow's COVID-19 vaccine is already approved for human clinical trials in the Philippines with President Rodrigo Duterte even volunteering himself to be inoculated in public with the Russian drug.