Saying “no one is safe unless everyone is safe,” President Rodrigo Duterte told the United Nations General Assembly’s special session on COVID-19 that leaving poor countries out of vaccine distribution would be a “gross injustice.”
“The Philippines wants to ensure the swift and unimpeded provision of medical care to all Filipinos, especially the most vulnerable,” Duterte said.
“If any country is excluded by reason of poverty or strategic unimportance, this gross injustice will haunt the world for a long time. It will completely discredit the values upon which the United Nations was founded,” he said.
“We cannot let this happen. No one is safe unless everyone is safe,” he added.
He asked that life-saving services and products be made accessible to the most vulnerable: “The most to the least.”
“Our first priority is to strengthen the capacity of health systems. Without a cure and a vaccine, we can only delay the spread of the disease while we reopen our economies,” Duterte said.
While he recognized how the pandemic showed the weaknesses of institutions, Duterte also noted the advantages of lockdowns imposed to curb the virus spread.
“Lockdowns have forced us to take full advantage of technology and innovation. It has sped up the adoption of e-commerce, e-learning, videoconferencing, and artificial intelligence,” he said.
The Philippines has been subjected to various levels of community quarantine since March to prevent coronavirus transmission while also slowly reopening the economy.
Duterte reaffirmed that the Philippines will do its part by contributing to the pooling of global resources and helping other countries without preconditions.
“Together with our brothers in Asean and the Non-Aligned Movement, the Philippines supports a global health agenda with adequate resourcing and policy space for the World Health Organization,” he added.
Meanwhile, the head of the Department of Science and Technology’s vaccine technical panel said the World Health Organization (WHO) clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines will likely start early next year.
During a Department of Health briefing, Dr. Nina Gloriani said the WHO has shortlisted five vaccines, but has not made an official announcement yet.
Meanwhile, Gloriana said, two vaccine developers—AstraZeneca and Janssen--might soon be given initial clearance for their proposed clinical trials in here, after they respond to follow-up questions from the virus technical panel.
Once they are satisfied with the answers, their application may then be forwarded to the ethics review board. Once cleared by the board, they can undergo final evaluation by the Food and Drug Administration.
“We just have a few more comments. If they respond to that we should be granting technical clearance,” Gloriani said of AstraZeneca, which recently received regulatory approval in the United Kingdom.
A group of private companies here and the government have also recently signed a supply deal with the British vaccine manufacturer if it passes local regulations.
Gloriani said they had to defer action on Janssen, which is under Johnson & Johnson, while waiting for their response. The company finally replied on Dec. 2.
She said the vaccine expert panel will have to meet again and discuss the response.
“If we are satisfied with their responses we will actually approve technical clearance,” she said.
Currently, only Chinese companies Sinovac and Clover Biopharmaceuticals have passed the vaccine expert panel.
The DOST said last week that the ethics review would only take a few days more.
Of the five vaccine developers that applied for clinical trials, only Gamaleya Institute from Russia has not submitted complete documents.
“They have provided us with animal studies Phases I and II data. But their Phase 3 study protocol… still has some missing information. So we have requested that. And the informed consent has not been submitted,” Gloriani said.
While some vaccine developers already published their interim findings, Gloriani said they cannot rely on published papers alone, especially if they are not peer-reviewed.
“Gamaleya has somehow provided information that they have 92 percent efficacy. We want the scientific data. We cannot rely on what is published on the internet,” she said.
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