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DOH lays down COVID-19 vaccine trial timeline; Bong Go reiterates that the poor and vulnerable sectors must be given priority

October 20, 2020 - Tuesday 4:10 PM by MDM

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Senator Christopher “Bong” Go sought updates from Secretary of Health Francisco Duque III on the clinical trials being conducted for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines in the country during the Senate Committee on Health hearing he chaired on Monday, October 19.

Go, likewise, reminded the DOH that once the vaccine becomes available, the poor and the vulnerable must be prioritized. 

“At paalala ko lang po, gaya ng sinabi ng ating Pangulo, unahin natin ‘yung mahihirap, ‘yung mga nasa vulnerable sectors dahil sila po ang kailangan lumabas at mag trabaho para mabuhay. Kailangan nila maghanapbuhay kaya kailangan unahin natin itong mga poor at vulnerable sectors sa vaccine once safe na po itong vaccine na ito,” Go emphasized.

Duque positively responded highlighting that the healthcare workers, the frontliners, the poor, and other priority groups, such as the men and women of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or Philippine National Police, consisting of about twenty million in population will be given priority.

Duque also mentioned that they are in coordination with the World Health Organization on vaccine development and have identified places and hospitals that will be used for the clinical trial phase three. 

The COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials are separated in phases. Phase I includes initial testing of a new vaccine done in normal or healthy volunteers and would only involve few participants. The Phase II will study the use of the vaccine in patients at risk to the target disease. Phase III will include a study to be conducted in populations for which the new vaccine will be used to confirm findings from earlier phases, and will determine safety and efficacy. 

“About the vaccine, ano na po ba ang updates sa clinical trial, at ano ang mga requirements sa gustong sumali po rito sa trial?,” Go asked during the hearing. 

According to Duque, the Department of Science and Technology is currently signing confidentiality disclosure agreements that will allow the DOH to use the information and current data regarding the clinical trial phases being conducted by the DOST.

“Hindi po kasi lahat sabay-sabay ang vaccine development. May iba po na nauna at batay po ito roon sa nilagdaan ng DOST at ng mga vaccine manufacturing companies,” Duque answered.

The DOH Secretary also mentioned that six companies are presently working on the vaccine. 

“I think mayroon pong anim 'yan eh. 'Yung Sinovac at Sinopharm. Mayroon din ang Pfizer na pinoproseso  po 'yung kanilang CDA, Pfizer with Biotech. Tapos mayroon din po with Oxford, meron din po tayong ‘yung sa Russia. Ito po 'yung bakuna na ang paniwala po natin ay nag-alay ang gobyerno ng Russia na i-prioritize ang Pilipinas. Magbibigay sila ng libreng bakuna, ito po ‘yung galing sa Sputnik V ang tawag po rito,” Duque added.

Duque reiterated that they have been coordinating with DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña regarding the latest developments in the vaccine trials. 

Go, then, asked for a timeline on the release and availability of the vaccine. 

“About the vaccine, kailan po sa tingin ninyo tayo magkakaroon ng safe na vaccine?,” Go asked.

According to Duque, dela Peña said that the results regarding the release and availability of the vaccine may be expected by April 2021.

“It would take about six months between now and end of March 2021 para po makumpleto 'yung clinical trial phase three. Ngayon po, pinaghahandaan natin. Tama po kayo, may mga nag-apply for clinical trials dito sa Pilipinas at meron na pong kasunduan ang DOST na sila po ang mangunguna sa vaccine development under the IATF resolution,” Duque said explaining that DOST has been designated as chair of the sub-technical working group on vaccine development.