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No condition set by China for PH access to Covid-19 vaccines

October 22, 2020 - Thursday 9:10 PM by PNA

Article Banner Image File photo (Xinhua)

MANILA – No condition was set by the Chinese government for Manila to access the coronavirus vaccines the Asian power is currently developing, Philippine Ambassador to Beijing Jose Santiago Sta. Romana said on Thursday.

In a Palace briefing, the envoy said two Chinese candidate vaccines are on the final stages of phase 3 clinical trials, with no report of adverse effects.

"I think they are preparing to make an announcement soon on the formal approval of the vaccine and the mass production. So the moment there is mass production, then it is a question of you know, how much will be ready for distribution and deployment," he said.

While the country is on China's priority list, Sta. Romana explained that distribution could be a challenge as the recipient country must first secure a cold storage facility ahead of the vaccine's production.

"From our discussions with the Chinese Pharmaceutical companies, they have pointed out that the next challenge really is the distribution and the deployment of the vaccine," he said. "These Chinese pharmaceutical companies that have manufactured the vaccines have been telling us that what is required really is the cold chain storage facilities around the country or certain strategic areas around the country because the vaccine have to be handled very well before they can be deployed.”

Meanwhile, he clarified that the cold chain storage is "not a condition" but rather a necessity to ensure the vaccine's shelf life.

"It’s not a condition. It’s just a reminder that if you get the vaccine and you don’t have cold chain storage, then it’s useless. So you have to prepare," he said.

Sta. Romana said China is seen to begin production as early as November or December 2020 once the candidate vaccines pass the clinical trials and approval processes.

"The prospects are bright in terms of a breakthrough in vaccine. As far as I know, in China there’s a possibility for one or two vaccines that will be approved here soon," he said.

He said the vaccines still need to pass the requirements of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Health.

“So, this is something, I think that these agencies are already preparing for," he added.

China has yet to identify the number of doses that would be made available for the Philippines, but Sta. Romana the two governments are now discussing this subject.

"But definitely in terms of number, you know, how they will do it kasi (because) it depends on the—they’re talking of hundreds of millions in terms of production here in China. So, the question is distribution and deployment," he said.

'Emergency basis'

In China, the vaccines are now used on an "emergency basis" for front-liners, particularly those dealing with Covid-19 patients, even while the clinical study is ongoing.

Asked if Beijing has offered Manila inoculation for a similar purpose, Sta. Romana said any drug must first undergo the Philippines' domestic processes.

"We have our own domestic requirements so you have to go through that. Now, people who may want a Sinovac, I think has applied to conduct the Phase 3 trial. That is being evaluated by the health authorities. So the moment ma-approve iyan then, of course on an emergency basis, should be possible," he said.

In the same Palace press briefing, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado assured that funds will be ready for the country’s storage facilities for vaccines.

“Surely, as the sun rises in the east, there will be funds for that because the President (Rodrigo Duterte) will never allow that we will run short of the requirements to make sure that we have the storage facilities for all of these vaccines po,” Avisado said.  Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

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