The World Health Organization acting representative to the Philippines on Tuesday said several “candidate vaccines” against COVID-19 were undergoing thorough studies in different parts of the world but said these were at least a year away from being ready.
“So that would be the shortest period in order to study if the vaccines are safe and effective and can be administered to people,” said Dr. Socorro Escalante, the acting WHO representative.
READ: 4 drugs for use in PH cure tests
She admitted that it’s very difficult to contain the novel coronavirus since right now, there is no cure for it. She said this condition is also the reason for the spread of the virus to more than 200 countries around the globe, infecting almost three million people and killing almost 200,000 others.
“It’s hard to eliminate COVID-19 because it is easily transmitted from human to human and everybody can be infected—children, adults and even healthy individuals... we saw them getting sick of COVID-19,” the WHO official said.
In addition, she said the effects of the virus are worse on those with co-morbidities like diabetes, heart disease, cancer or asthma.
“So we really need vaccines to stop its spread from one person to another and to prevent individuals from getting the disease,” said Escalante.
Since vaccine development will really take time, Escalante called on the Philippines to prepare its regulatory processes in terms of assessment and evaluation of the vaccines to hasten the process and registration once they are received here.
She also cited the need to prepare the deployment of the vaccines, depending on how the country will prioritize the administration of the vaccines.
READ: Treatment tests spark hope
Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. asked Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian for assistance in procuring five boxes of Carrimycin tablets, an unregistered drug from Beijing that supposedly helped him recover from COVID-19.
“The said medicine helped me in my recovery from the coronavirus disease 2019 [COVID-19] infection and I intend to give the said drug to my close friends who have also been infected,” a letter sent by Santos said.
“I took Carrimycin tablets given to me by a Chinese friend with a dosage of two tablets a day for six days. On April 5, I was tested negative for COVID-19.”
AFP spokesman Edgard Arevalo said Santos’ letter was authentic and has since been withdrawn.
“He believes he has been cured by the medicine and it was effective. He doesn’t want to keep the cure to himself and would like to share his experience to some of his friends,” Arevalo said.
“We do not see any conflict of interest. This is about medicine that the AFP chief feels can save people’s lives. That is more compelling.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, meantime, appealed for understanding for Santos’ action since the latter had suffered from the respiratory illness.
He said the letter “wasn’t very improper” but should have been coursed through the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Food and Drug Administration director-general Eric Domingo said the agency has yet to receive an application for the product’s registration.
READ: 500 Pinoys join virus cure tests
The unregistered drug from China, he said, was included in the World Health Organization’s list of traditional Chinese medicine being used in treating COVID-19 and has been approved by Beijing’s FDA.
“Our appeal to them is if they truly believe in their product, we will not make it hard for them, especially if their product has been tested and registered in the country where it came from,” said Domingo.
Meanwhile, Department of Health Asec Maria Rosario Vergeire said the so-called Fabunan Antiviral Injection for COVID-19 has not even applied for registration and may not be used.
She reminded the public to be cautious of drugs that have not been registered with the FDA.
“This Fabunan, they say this is a vaccine, not medication, being injected into patients. We reminded them to apply with the FDA so we may understand how it works but they have not applied until now,” she said.
“They cannot use it on people without studying first if it’s good or not. So they have to register it so we can check. It can’t be used if it’s not registered,” she added.
The Department of Science and Technology, meanwhile, is looking into the benefits of using local herbal medicine to fight COVID-19.
The DOST is leading the study of virgin coconut oil, lagundi, and tawatawa as possible supplements to the diet of COVID-19 patients.
The Department of Health earlier announced that the DOST has launched a study on the effects of virgin coconut oil on COVID-19 cases.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque on Monday said the DOST will also look into lagundi and tawatawa.
The Palace on Tuesday said the President would give a P20-million reward to any Filipino who can produce respirators that would be used to treat individuals infected with COVID-19.
READ: Government seeks public help to design ventilators, respirators
President Rodrigo Duterte offered the reward money given the lack of respirators in hospitals amid the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, Roque said.
READ: Rody ups reward for virus cure to P50 million vows more if he’s ‘happy’
At the same time, President Duterte has ordered concerned government agencies to speed up the delivery of medicines and medical supplies for patients infected with COVID-19.
In a televised public address on Monday night, Duterte urged agencies to course medicines and medical supplies through Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez, the chief implementer of the National Policy Against COVID-19.
Duterte said city health officials lack the manpower to immediately deliver the medicines to hospitals in their respective areas.
He said agencies should waste no time in sending the medicines to hospitals and other health facilities.