The government already has a list of 35 million Filipinos that will get priority access to vaccines against COVID-19, which will be available either by the second quarter of 2021 or by the middle of 2021, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said Wednesday.
Galvez said the government targets to vaccinate 60 million to 70 million Filipinos in five years in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We already have the list of more than 35 million Filipinos in the priority list. It was given to us by the Department of Health based on the guidance of our President,” he said.
Galvez said the vaccination will start in areas that are most affected by the pandemic as well as those considered as business centers so the country will immediately feel its effect.
Field widened in Avigan clinical trial
The protocol for clinical trials for anti-flu drug Avigan in the Philippines has been eased to include non-severe COVID-19 cases so as to increase the number of patients needed for the trial, the Department of Health said Wednesday.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the revised protocol allows non-severe COVID-19 patients, with or without pneumonia and not on oxygen support, to participate in the Avigan clinical trials. Originally, the trial was limited to mild COVID-19 cases.
Vergeire said testing has already started in the Philippines.
Avigan, the Japanese brand for favipiravir, previously showed promising results in treating COVID-19 vaccines. Tablets were sent to the Philippines by Japan for clinical trial purposes, but the trials were repeatedly delayed because of some documentary requirements.
AstraZeneca eyes Philippine trials
British biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca’s bid to conduct clinical trials for its COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines will push through after results of its clinical trials in the United Kingdom proved promising, the Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire made the announcement two days after AstraZeneca announced that its joint COVID-19 vaccine effort with Oxford University showed that it could be as much as 90 percent effective.
AstraZeneca-Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine has been found 70 percent effective against COVID-19 at first half dose, but it increases to 90 percent after the second full dose is administered.
50 million doses not enough for herd immunity
THE government’s target supply of 50 million COVID-19 vaccines is not enough to achieve herd immunity as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), an executive of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV) said Wednesday.
PFV director Dr. Lulu Bravo, in an interview on Unang Hirit on Wednesday, said if the vaccination requires two doses, the supply can only cover 25 million out of the more than 100 million Filipinos.
She said that fell short of the 60 percent to 70 percent of the population needed to attain herd immunity.
But Dr. Rontgene Solante, head of adult infectious disease at the San Lazaro Hospital, said the ultimate goal was to spend P73.2 billion to vaccinate 60 million Filipinos, which would be enough to reach herd immunity.
Info drive on vaccines in the works
THE Department of Health (DOH) said it plans to mount an information drive on the COVID-19 vaccine to encourage Filipinos to be vaccinated against the deadly disease and to calm the public’s concerns regarding its safety.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in an interview on Teleradyo, said health officials have been finalizing the information drive to prepare communities for the vaccine.
The DOH started planning the information campaign as early as October, when the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it would be conducting clinical trials in the country.
The Philippines is among the countries participating in the WHO’s Solidarity Trial for COVID-19 vaccines, but the clinical trials have been postponed until December.
WHO said the Philippines has pledged 2,000 to 3,000 participants for the vaccine trials.
Vaccine from India being tested
Local pharmaceutical distributor Faberco Life Sciences Inc. will be supplying the Novavax COVID vaccine in the Philippines once it is proven safe and effective.
“We will not come out with a vaccine without strong evidence that it is safe and effective,” said Dr. Luningning Villa, Faberco’s medical director and chairman of its advisory board.
Villa said the COVID-19 vaccine being developed by US company Novavax is already on its third phase of trial.
“By December, we may see some initial findings,” she said.
In an interview on TeleRadyo on Wednesday, Villa said Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, is being tested in other countries like in the United States and the United Kingdom.