PH-made vaccine eyed to wean away from foreign make; P50M on offer

The Philippines plans to develop its own COVID-19 vaccines in a bid to reduce dependence on imported vaccines, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Thursday.

In a press briefing, Roque said that Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato de la Pena already recommended the establishment of the Institute of Vaccinology, the first in the country.

President Rodrigo Duterte offered a reward of P50 million to Filipino scientists who can develop a vaccine COVID-19 in April last year.

“The Philippines is at a point where it needs to think about its own capability to produce its own COVID vaccine,” Roque said.

He added, however, that the country is already contributing to the worldwide effort to come up with a treatment for COVID-19.

Roque noted that the country continues to actively participate in the clinical trial for the use of lagundi (Vitex negundo or Chinese chaste tree), tawa-tawa (Euphorbia hirta or asthma-plant), and virgin coconut oil as a supplementary treatment for COVID-19.

Roque said that the Philippines is also participating in the trials for the effectiveness of convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Convalescent plasma is the transfusion of blood plasma from someone who recovered from COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Filipino pharmaceutical firm Glovax Biotech has partnered with a Korean vaccine manufacturer to produce the EuCorVac-19 in the Philippines, should the government purchase 40 million doses of its vaccine.

Glovax is in talks with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Board of Investments for the possible investment for a next-generation COVID-19 vaccine production facility.

For his part, India’s Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran said the country will receive 30 million doses of the Indian-manufactured COVID-19 vaccine from the American company Novavax in the second quarter or early in the third quarter, once the agreements are signed.

He said discussions between Indian officials and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez are already underway, but said it was “pretty much a done deal.”

He said the vaccine could provide the backbone for the Philippines’ vaccination effort in the second half of this year.

The Philippines and India are also in talks for at least 8 million doses of the Covaxin developed by Indian firm Bharat Biotech.

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