MANILA – A COVID-19 vaccine may be available in the Philippines by the first or second quarter of next year if phase 3 clinical trials will begin next month, an infectious disease expert said Tuesday after President Rodrigo Duterte expressed hope that the country will be free from the virus by December.
The Philippines is currently considering 5 to 6 vaccines, according to Dr. Rontgene Solante, a member of vaccine experts panel of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development.
"The current setup now is we’re still in the negotiating process, looking at possibility on how we can really collaborate with them and concrete in terms of the date," he told ANC.
"More or less if we can start these clinical trials by September or October, we’ll be monitoring those involved in 3 to 6 months. Then probably first or second quarter of next year hopefully we can have the vaccine."
Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev earlier said proposals to conduct clinical trials and the possible local production of the vaccine have been submitted to local authorities.
Government has allotted an initial budget of P2.4 billion for COVID-19 vaccines, the Department of Health (DOH) said.
Solante said it would be preferable to have local clinical trials to "get the real data on safety and efficacy" among Filipino patients.
"There’s a big difference because you’re looking at different population. There may be similarities in safety but we don’t know efficacy seen abroad can also be replicated among our local patients," he said.
Solante, meantime, welcomed government's move to conduct house-to-house symptom checks during Metro Manila's 2-week modified lockdown.
"This will enhance the detection of those who are mild and symptomatic and will give us also an in-depth situation; how much of those who have symptoms and exposed to those with symptoms," he said.
"I think 2 weeks is adequate enough that we can recalibrate our plans and somehow prepare for next surge of cases. Hopefully it will not occur. It’s a good 2-week lull because even with the 2-week MECQ we still have a lot of cases but hopefully we can get the impact of this 2-week lull on the next week or 2 weeks from now."
He added "open communication and cascading policies on the ground" were needed following reports that some local governments were reluctant to reintegrate virus patients into the community without negative confirmatory tests after their recovery.
The Philippines as of Monday logged 136,638 COVID-19 cases. Of this number, 66,186 are considered active cases, while 68,159 have recovered and 2,293 died.