MANILA — The Department of Health on Wednesday assured the public that the country can immediately start COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials as soon as the World Health Organization initiates the so-called Solidarity Trial.
“We are finalizing our preparatory activities already. So that when WHO signals na mag-uumpisa na po tayo (that we start) we are already ready for these trials,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing.
She said the study proponent from the University of the Philippines’ Philippine General Hospital already submitted a clinical trial protocol. This has already been approved.
“Clinical trial sites in the Philippines have also been identified. Together with WHO 'yan. Pinag-aralan po. May criteria tayong isinet kung anong mga sites ang isasama natin for this clinical trial process,” Vergeire said.
(Clinical trial sites in the Philippines have also been identified, together with the WHO. This was studied. There are criteria set to determine which sites will be included in the clinical trial process.)
The government previously said that volunteers for the trial would be recruited from the five to 10 barangays in the country with the highest ratio of COVID-19 cases.
Because it will involve implementation in the communities, the DOH said they are already engaging local government units. This includes memoranda of agreement between the LGUs and involved government agencies.
“Para nakasaad d'yan (sa MOA) kung ano ang mga responsibilidad ng bawat ahensya as well as for the LGUs as well,” Vergeire said.
(Stated there in the MOA are the responsibilities of the agencies and the LGUs as well.)
She said their health promotion bureau is also preparing to engage with communities.
“We will engage the community so the community will be informed of this trial that will happen, what would be the advantages, what would be the possible na disadvantages or harmful effects of these vaccines and how it could benefit the community,” she added.
Besides a vaccine experts panel, which is responsible for screening the possible vaccines and their protocol for the trial, government is also creating a data safety monitoring committee, Vergeire said.
“Ito 'yung sa monitoring ng pagbabakuna para mayroon tayong mga eksperto para 'pag sinubmit sa kanila ang data they can readily analyze and provide further recommendation to the implementors sa Department of Health at mga local government units,” she said.
(This is for the monitoring of the immunization process so that we have experts who can readily analyze and provide further recommendation to the implementors at the Department of Health and local government units.)
Vergeire said they are also looking into cold storage facilities for the vaccines, especially since they require different temperatures while in storage.
While earlier reports said a COVID-19 vaccine might be available by mid-2021, the WHO said on Tuesday it might come as late as the end of next year.