The government will sell its assets to generate funds to purchase vaccines for the coronavirus disease once it becomes available to address the crisis, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Friday.
He made the statement after reports that four COVID-19 vaccines being tested by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech reportedly showed “encouraging” results.
Earlier, the President said he would dispose of government assets as a last resort to keep the country afloat as it grapples with COVID-19 pandemic.
Duterte said he would sell government assets, including state-owned institutions Cultural Center of the Philippines and Philippine International Convention Center, both in Pasay City.
Roque claimed the President was serious when the Chief Executive announced the idea of selling government assets to help the Filipino people, particularly in this time of pandemic.
“When a vaccine against COVID-19 becomes available, we will sell government assets and purchase vaccines for our countrymen,” Roque said.
The World Health Organization reported the said vaccine triggered an “immune system response” and prepared the body to fight the virus.
Pharmaceutical giant Moderna also reported it had started the final-stage clinical trial of its vaccine for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 this July.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration released critical updates on the ongoing COVID-19 trials as part of WHO’s Solidarity Trial for treatments.
The global clinical trial aims to rapidly discover treatment options to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19.
DOH OIC-Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, underscoring the importance of thorough, strict and oversight regulation on clinical trials, stressed the importance of discovering COVID treatment.
She was joined by FDA Director General Rolando Enrique Domingo who gave an overview on the current trials being done.
“At the moment, there are 17 candidates for COVID-19 vaccines in the clinical trial stage and 132 candidate vaccines in pre-clinical evaluation,” Domingo said.
In the virtual news conference, drugs such as hydroxychloroquine, remdesevir, lopinavir with ritonavir, and lopinavir with ritonavir plus interferon beta-1a were mentioned as part of the WHO Solidarity Trial.
The Philippines currently has 450 patients enrolled in 22 active sites under the program.
Domingo elaborated on hydroxycholoroquine which he explained had long been registered in the Philippines for patients with rheumatic diseases and lupus.
The drug used to be part of the Solidarity Trial but was recently stopped due to evidence that it did not minimize COVID-19’s mortality rate.
Remdesevir, originally meant for Ebola Virus, is now being administered to COVID-19 patients.
It has been reported that in some clinical trials, remdesevir helped shorten the recovery time of some patients.
Domingo also reported on dexamethasone, used to treat allergy and low blood pressure of hospitalized patients.
He reminded the public this was not for drinking, needed a doctor’s prescription and monitoring.
While dexamethasone is not part of the WHO Solidarity Trial, data from the United Kingdom recently reported the drug has helped in lowering the mortality rate of COVID-19 patients who are in critical condition.
However, Domingo stressed that although early data shows promising results on the efficacy of dexamethasone in treating COVID-19, it must not be used for self-medication as it could have severe side effects to healthy individuals.
Drugs, such as remdesivir which have stricter limitations as to use, may be administered to patients under emergency use.
Domingo reported that as of June 30, there were 40 drug applications approved in the Drugs for Emergency Use.
The FDA also recently released FDA Circular 2020-012 or “Guidelines for the registration of drug products under emergency use for COVID-19” which aims to provide streamlined requirements and application process for the registration of drug products under emergency use for COVID-19.
The circular covers all marketing authorization holders that will manufacture and import or distribute the drug products indicated in the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Interim Guidelines on the Clinical Management of Adult Patients with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19 Infection.
Overall, Domingo stressed that in the search for pharmaceutical intervention against COVID-19, there must be a balance in speeding up the trial and ensuring safety, explaining that trials were important.