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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Gatchalian bill bats for vaccine, virology hub

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Senator Win Gatchalian has renewed his push to create a virology and vaccine institute in the Philippines, citing the decline of unvaccinated children from 1 million in 2021 to 637,000 for those born in 2022.

Gatchalian warned the country’s persisting low child immunization coverage would increase the country’s risk of disease outbreaks.

Under the Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines (VIP) Act of 2022 or Senate Bill No. 941, Gatchalian seeks the provision of initiatives to boost local vaccine development, sustain production, and boost technology transfer.

The proposed measure seeks to create the VIP, which shall serve as the premier research and development institute in the field of virology.

Gatchalian said this will encompass all areas of viruses and viral diseases in plants, animals, and humans.

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Among the powers, functions, and duties of the proposed VIP are the undertaking of scientific and technological research and development (R&D) in the field of virology; the conduct of product R&D in the areas of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines, among others; and the transfer of the results of scientific research and development for use of both the public and private sectors.

The research outputs of the VIP shall also be integrated into other plans relating to the management of public health emergencies relating to infectious diseases, as well as disease control and prevention.

The  United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) emphasized that more work needs to be done to reach the ideal coverage of 95%.

According to the Department of Health (DOH), as of last year, vaccine coverage among the eligible population of young children nationwide stood at 59.9%.

A 2022 research paper by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) revealed that while vaccine confidence is a factor in the low immunization coverage in recent years, deep-seated supply-side system issues also contribute to the country’s low vaccine coverage. The PIDS study also identified leadership, planning, and supply chain problems that led to recurring vaccine stockouts in the past decade.

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