SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go lauded the ongoing efforts of the national government, in coordination with the private sector, to boost the Philippines’ capabilities to locally manufacture and eventually develop its own vaccines. He said that this will allow the country to eventually veer away from reliance on the international market for vaccines and other medicines.
“Napakalaki po ng potensyal ng ating bansa na mag-produce ng sarili nating mga gamot at bakuna laban sa samu’t saring mga sakit. Napapanahon na po upang pag-aralan natin kung papaano tayo magiging self-reliant pagdating sa aspetong ito,” reiterated Go.
According to Go, who also serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, this initiative will not only help boost local vaccine supply, but can also help increase production of vaccines in the world market in the future.
In line with this, Go welcomed the active participation and show of interest of various pharmaceutical companies in locally manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines.
Late in March, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said that the Board of Investments has been in discussion with companies which are keen on producing COVID-19 vaccines locally.
During a televised meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, April 15, Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña also disclosed that the government is in talks with potential local vaccine manufacturers in a presentation on “Vaccine Self-Reliant Philippines”.
During the said meeting, the DTI also presented its ongoing efforts to help attain vaccine self-reliance by supporting local manufacturing initiatives.
“Bagama’t mid- to long-term solution ito sa ating hangarin na magkaroon ng sapat na supply ng ligtas at epektibong bakuna sa bansa, maging bukas ang ating isipan at suportahan natin ang mga ganitong inisyatibo,” Go said.
“Hindi natin alam kung ano pa ang mga idudulot na problema ng COVID-19 sa susunod na mga buwan. Hindi rin natin alam ano pang pandemya ang haharapin natin sa susunod na mga taon. Mas mabuting maging proactive at handa tayo,” he emphasized further.
Go also stressed the need to accelerate arrangements for public-private partnerships in manufacturing vaccines locally, with the DTI at the helm. He urged concerned agencies to support these initiatives and help expedite the setting-up process, but also asked the companies to ensure all requirements are met in accordance with existing laws and regulations.
“Mas magiging matagumpay ito kung magtutulungan ang gobyerno at ang pribadong sektor. We need to always adopt a whole-of nation approach to overcome these challenges,” he said.
“Hindi ito laban ng gobyerno lamang, laban ito ng buong sambayanang Pilipino at ng buong mundo. Kaya nga po bayanihan ang isinisigaw natin noong simula palang. Bigyan natin ng oportunidad ang lahat na tumulong,” he added.
Meanwhile, Go said that the establishment of a virology institute, which will eventually enable the country to develop its own vaccines and other related drugs against diseases, such as COVID-19, should be the long-term goal.
“It is for this reason that I recently echoed President Duterte’s call to establish a virology institute that will capacitate the country to conduct scientific research initiatives on preventing and treating various viruses and diseases,” he said.
Go said that this initiative is intended to avoid a repetition of the present situation where poorer nations are left with fewer supplies of vaccines as compared to richer and more developed countries that have early on invested in health sciences and medical research.
Acting as a venue for both local and international scientists to collaborate on studying viruses of agricultural, industrial, clinical, and environmental importance, Go mentioned that the proposed institute will serve as the premier research and development institute in the field of virology in the country. It will encompass all areas in viruses and viral diseases in humans, plants, and animals.
The government has already allocated an amount of PhP50 million in the 2021 General Appropriations Act for the detailed engineering design of the virology institute which is planned to be built in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac. The institute project is one of the projects included in the government’s Build! Build! Build! infrastructure program.
Measures have also been introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to institutionalize the proposed virology research.