WHO, firms ready to pay virus test jab volunteers

A department of Science and Technology official said Saturday the World Health Organization and vaccine firms would cover medical expenses in case some volunteers to their respective clinical trials would experience side effects from COVID-19 jabs.

In a public press briefing, DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevarra said the WHO would cover treatment of those who participate in solidarity trials and experience adverse reactions, while vaccine developers would shoulder the costs for those who participate in independent clinical trials and show side effects.

“For independent clinical trials, vaccine developers will shoulder costs. WHO will shoulder the costs for participants in solidarity trials, as they have bought global insurance for volunteers and those on the trial list,” Guevarra said.

The DOST on Friday said Janssen Pharmaceuticals started its clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccine in the country. In the same briefing, the DOST said the World Health Organization was considering selecting 3 COVID-19 vaccines for its solidarity trials, which have been in discussions since last year.

Preparations for the vaccine trials of Clover and Sinovac are ongoing.

Adverse effects

Should patients experience adverse effects, vaccine firms will be filing reports to the Food and Drug Administration, who in turn will analyze the information to know the cause of the side effects.

“When a patient experiences adverse effects, they will submit protocols. They will report this to the Food and Drug Administration of the Philippines. And when it happens here, the hospitalization in case someone experiences adverse effects…will be shouldered by the company conducting clinical trials,” Guevarra said.

The Philippines is aiming to inoculate 70 million of its population, hoping to buy 148 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from various drug makers. No single vial has arrived in the Philippines yet despite earlier pronouncements of COVID-19 response officials that the jabs may arrive this month.

COVID mutations

The Department of Health, meanwhile, said it was not ruling out COVID-19 mutations following the spike in cases in the Central Visayas.

Despite saying it was difficult to conclude that the surge in COVID-19 cases in the Central Visayas was caused by two recently detected “mutations of concern,” the DOH was not ruling out such a possibility.

During state-run PTV’s Laging Handa briefing on Saturday, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the recently detected mutations were “most probably” a factor in “the increase in the number of cases in Cebu.”

“Because we know these variants [have] higher transmissibility,” Vergeire explained.

On Friday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that it was still difficult to attribute the rising COVID-19 cases in the region to the new coronavirus mutations.

Mutations identified

DOH Region 7 on Thursday said the mutations E484K and N501Y were detected in 31 of 50 samples from Cebu that were sequenced by the Philippine Genome Center.

In their latest report, OCTA Research said the number of new cases in Cebu City rose by 30 percent from the previous week to 123 new infections daily from February 1 to 7.

Meanwhile, the positivity rates in Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu remained above 10 percent. The World Health Organization’s benchmark is 5 percent or lower.

Last week, the DOH Epidemiology Bureau noted a “steep” uptick of COVID-19 infections in Cebu province and the cities of Cebu, Lapu-Lapu, and Mandaue but said the increase was not translating to a high healthcare utilization rate.

COVID cases

Meanwhile, the Philippines posted 2,240 more COVID-19 cases, as the health department announced the second highest number of fatalities in a day with 239.

The day’s cases pushed the country’s running tally to 559,288, of which 34,100 remain active infections.

The new figure, however, does not include data from 6 laboratories that failed to submit results on time.

Fatalities reached 12,068 after 239 deaths were announced.

The DOH noted that 167 of those were initially tagged as recoveries but were reclassified as deaths after the agency’s final validation.

The DOH earlier said the high number of deaths recorded in late January and early February were the result of data harmonization with the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Barangays in lockdown

The local government of Pasay City has placed 33 barangays and one establishment under a 14-day lockdown due to an increasing number of COVID-19 cases.

Pasay City Administrator Dennis Acorda made the announcement, saying Pasay City Mayor Emi Calixto-Rubiano wanted to place on lockdown every barangay where there are 3 or more COVID-19 cases.

The city is a transport hub in the southern Metro, where air and bus terminals are located. It is also home to recreational and entertainment sites.

The OCTA Research Group on Saturday said COVID-19 cases in Pasay City doubled from last week.

“This week, for the past 7 days, average niya sa Pasay 44 cases per day pero the previous week 22,” said Prof. Guido David.

David said the spike could be due to the recent holidays like the Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day celebrations.

Last week, Rubiano said she was in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.

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