- Vaccine out by April ‘21
- Antigen pilot test in Baguio
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday said, in a best case scenario, approval of a COVID-19 vaccine in the country might come in April 2021.
“The best case scenario (is) if clinical trials are completed by December or January and a company would file with the FDA an application then it’s possible that by April 2021 we will have an approved vaccine,” FDA Director General Eric Domingo said during a Department of Health virtual briefing.
“That is the best case scenario. Meaning, the three to six months trial will just be three months and they will complete all of their analyses and submit immediately,” said Domingo.
Science Secretary Fortunato de la Peña explained in the same briefing that this time period – three to six months – was the experts’ estimate on Phase III clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines.
“In my estimate when they say three to six months we prefer to use the longer forecast in our estimates. That would indicate that in that period they would have finished the clinical trials and probably already submitted to FDA the application and the results of their trial,” Domingo said.
Currently, the Philippines is negotiating with 17 vaccine developers and six of them already have signed confidentiality disclosure agreements (CDA) that would allow the sharing of their earlier trial results.
However, the Philippine government said it would prioritize the World Health Organization’s Solidarity Trial, which will involve simultaneous testing of several vaccines in different countries.
The Department of Health (DOH) reported on Friday that Baguio City had been chosen for the pilot use of antigen testing following recommendations to study its diagnostic capacity to screen for COVID-19 cases.
According to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Baguio City was the preferred pilot site because of its model governance in managing the spread and containment of the coronavirus as it led the way for aggressive and organized contact tracing in the Philippines, while increasing the operational efficiency of its health management system.
Antigen tests are used to determine current or active infections among patients. They collect and use swab samples to test a person under monitoring for COVID-19 in a process similar to the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) tests.
However, unlike RT-PCR, tests that can take up to three days to process results, said antigen tests have only about 4-6 hours turnaround time for release of results.
Clinical trials for the drug Avigan in the Philippines is delayed although Japan may be nearing approving it as a COVID-19 treatment.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a virtual briefing they were still waiting for documents to be finalized.
The DOH earlier said that the Avigan trial would be facilitated by UP’s Philippine General Hospital, Sta. Ana Hospital, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital, and Quirino Memorial Medical Center.
Fujifilm Holdings Corp. this week said that their Phase III clinical trial showed that Avigan, which was initially made to treat flu, reduced recovery times for COVID-19 patients with moderate symptoms.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has allowed all trial courts nationwide to conduct their hearings via video conferencing both for criminal and civil cases.
In Circular 161-2020 issued by the Office of the Court Administrator on Thursday, the SC stressed that “upon the approval of Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, all other first and second level courts not yet authorized to conduct video conferencing are hereby now authorized to do so, on all matters pending before them, in both criminal and civil cases, regardless of the stage of the trial, in accordance with existing circulars and guidelines.”
“Considering the successful conduct of video conferencing hearings and the fact that all courts are already capable of conducting videoconferencing hearings through their respective Philippine Judiciary 365 Accounts, there is a need to authorize all other first and second level courts not yet authorized to conduct videoconferencing hearings to do so, in order to avoid any further delay in court action on pending cases before them,” stated the circular signed by Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez.
Prior to the issuance of the Sept. 24 circular, the SC approved the conduct of video conferencing hearings in 1,025 single-sala courts.