The government is in talks with at least 16 COVID-19 vaccine developers, as the country continues to struggle in stopping the spread of the disease, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday.
“We have about 16 vaccine manufacturers and we are in different stages of the talks,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing.
Vergeire said there were also nine vaccine manufacturers who are part of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility, an international collaboration to speed up the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments.
As a member of the COVAX facility, the Philippines is assured of equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Vergeire said this in reply to questions regarding updates on the negotiations for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
Vergeire emphasized that the government was exploring other avenues, including the upcoming World Health Organization (WHO) Solidarity Trial for vaccines.
“We are not very specific on just the Russian vaccine,” she said.
While the Philippines has long been in talks with Chinese manufacturers who are among the vaccine frontrunners, Russia made headway this week by granting regulatory approval for its vaccine for limited use.
Government officials said the Philippines might be included in Russia’s Phase III clinical trials, which could begin in September or October.
Asked if the Philippines will have the capability for local production of vaccines since Russia said it would allow it, Vergeire said there were plans in place.
Vergeire said there were talks for possible public-private partnerships.
“We used to have a vaccine institute at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, except that that did not move forward,” she explained.
“We’ll see, ADB (|Asian Development Bank) has this grant helping out RITM to make a
feasibility study and we’ll see if the vaccine institute at RITM can push through,” Vergeire said.
She said one possibility was to ship the vaccine and to do the “fill and finish” part in the Philippines. This involves transferring the vaccine to vials or other containers.