DOH defends P89-million state funding for COVID-19 vaccine trials


Posted at Oct 02 2020 03:25 PM

MANILA - The Department of Health said Friday the P89-million government funding for the conduct of clinical trials for possible COVID-19 vaccines would be used to shoulder operational costs.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual briefing the funding allocated for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) clinical trials was just a small fraction to help in the search for an effective vaccine.

The amount is under the Department of Science and Technology's proposed 2021 budget, which underwent scrutiny at the House of Representatives earlier this week. 

"It is our obligation to contribute and to become part of the solution to this extraordinary global crisis," she said in Filipino.

This week, Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin expressed misgivings on the funds to be spent on the clinical trial for vaccines, which are being developed by private companies.

“Bakit tayo gagastos ng milyon-milyon para sa mga kompanya na pribadong sektor naman ang magbebenta (Why are we spending millions when the private sector will be the ones selling the vaccines)? Kung gagawin natin 'yan (If we do that), there should be an immediate corresponding discount equivalent to government expenditure,” the former health secretary said when the DOST budget was presented at the House plenary.

Vergeire explained in a separate briefing Friday that the UN health agency would shoulder the cost of the test vaccines while the DOST would cover the operational costs.

The operational costs, she said, refers to expenses on transportation, laboratory supplies such as personal protective equipment, and monitoring of participants.

The funding will be divided according to the needs of 12 study sites participating in the local implementation of the vaccine trial.

The WHO Solidarity Trial, Vergeire stressed, will give the Philippines greater access to the most effective and safe vaccine against the virus.

The solidarity trial is set to start in the country this month and will last for 18 months.

Among vaccines being evaluated by the WHO, which are all in Phase 3 or large-scale clinical trials, are being developed by (1) University of Oxford and AstraZeneca; (2) CanSino Biological Inc.; (3) Gamaleya Research Institute of Russia; (4) Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies; (5) Sinovac; (6) Sinopharm (Wuhan); (7) Sinopharm (Beijing); (8) Pfizer, BioNTech and Fosun Pharma; and (9) Moderna.