SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go welcomed and commended President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to approve funds for the World Health Organization Solidarity Vaccine Trial for COVID-19 in the country.
“Suportado ko po at kinokomendahan ang desisyon ng Pangulo na paglaanan ng dagdag na pondo ang solidarity vaccine trial na gagawin sa ating bansa,” Go said.
“Parte po ito ng commitment ng Pilipinas sa buong mundo na masiguro na ligtas at epektibo ang mga bakuna laban sa COVID-19. Nakikiisa tayo sa mas malawak na bayanihan efforts kasama ang international community upang labanan ang kasalukuyang pandemya,” he added.
According to the Inter-Agency Task Force Resolution No. 47, dated June 19, 2020, the Philippines has agreed to participate in the WHO Solidarity Vaccine Trial as part of the Philippine government’s commitment to make COVID-19 vaccines available at the soonest possible time. The WHO identified the Philippines and Colombia as the countries which are prepared to conduct the trial in mid-January 2021.
Initially, the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Health have approved a research grant amounting to P89.1 million and P9.6 million, respectively, for the conduct of the vaccine trial covering 4,000 participants. However, it was established that the total number of participants from the Philippines should be at least 15,000 volunteers.
The additional number of volunteers will entail additional cost for operation and human resources requirements for the community-based trials.
The COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials are separated in phases. Phase I includes testing of vaccines on one to 100 participants. Phase II includes testing the vaccines for initial safety and dosage studies in 100 to 1,000 participants, while Phase III includes efficacy and long-term safety studies in thousands up to 30,000 participants, across different ethnicities. The WHO Solidarity Vaccine Trial is essentially considered under Phase 3.
Several countries are participating in the vaccine trial as global effort is required to produce the data on the long-term efficacy and safety of the vaccines and to take into account possible differences due to ethnicity.
In the Philippines, the DOST will be the funding agency for the research grant for the trials which will be conducted by the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital. A Technical Working Group for COVID-19 Clinical Trial has also been created to evaluate the pre-clinical, Phase I, and Phase II clinical trial data of the candidate vaccines.
On the other hand, the DOH will provide guidance to the vaccine teams in the implementation of the clinical trials in line with its mandate for immunization programs.
Aside from the Solidarity Vaccine Trial, the country has also allowed Sinovac Biotech, Ltd. to hold clinical trials for its COVID-19 vaccine. Sinovac became the third company to secure clearance for Phase III trials in the country after Clover Biopharmaceuticals and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
Meanwhile, Senator Go also reminded the DOH that once a safe and effective 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 magtrabaho para mabuhay,” Go emphasized.