The Philippines will have access to the coronavirus vaccine of the United States, Malacañang said Tuesday, after a biotech firm there—Moderna—announced its drug against the COVID-19 disease was almost 95-percent effective.
The US' top infectious disease scientist hailed the coronavirus vaccine of Moderna as "stunningly impressive," following a clinical trial with more than 30,000 participants.
Last week, American pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech also said their vaccine was 90 percent effective.
"We have firm commitments from the United States… that we will have access to COVID vaccines that may be developed in the United States," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
He said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo relayed this information to Manila's Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin.
China has promised to supply its future COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines, while the United Kingdom agreed with the World Health Organization that it would give its potential vaccine to poor countries, said Roque.
Both US vaccine frontrunners are based on new technology that uses synthetic versions of molecules called "messenger RNA" to hack into human cells, and effectively turn them into vaccine-making factories.
"The idea that we have a 94.5 percent effective vaccine is stunningly impressive," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, which co-developed the vaccine.
"It is really a spectacular result that I don't think anybody had anticipated would be this good."
Moderna plans to submit applications for emergency approval around the world within weeks, and says it expects to have approximately 20 million doses ready to ship in the US by the end of the year.
The company, which has received $2 billion from the US government under "Operation Warp Speed," added it is on track to manufacture between 500 million to a billion doses globally in 2021.
Global infections from COVID-19 have soared past 54 million with more than 1.3 million deaths since the virus emerged in China late last year.
Moncef Slaoui, who leads Operation Warp Speed, said he hoped the two vaccines would be approved "somewhere towards in the first half of December," with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine the next on the horizon early next year.
Evacuees to be tested
Thousands of evacuees who fled their homes at the height of typhoon Ulysses will be tested for coronavirus 2019 to prevent the spread of the virus in evacuation centers, Malacañang said.
Roque said the government would use antigen test kits to screen individuals seeking shelter in evacuation centers.
This type of screening analyzes nasal and oral specimens, and can yield results in 15 minutes, testing czar COVID-19 testing czar Vince Dizon said.
The OCTA Research Group earlier urged the government to boost testing in evacuation centers to detect the possible transmission of the respiratory disease following the onslaught of typhoons.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque earlier said the spread of COVID-19 in evacuation centers was "a very strong possibility because health protocols were not followed.”
The Philippines logged on Tuesday 1,148 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 410,718, due to relatively lower data submission from laboratories after 31 laboratories failed to submit reports, the Department of Health reported.
Of the 17,880 people who were tested as of Monday noon, 920 or 5.1 percent, were confirmed positive for the disease, the health department said.
Top provinces and cities with new cases are Cavite, 88; Quezon City, 52; Rizal, 46; Baguio City, 44; and Manila, 44.
The DOH also reported 186 new recoveries, bringing the total new recoveries to 374,543, which is 91.2 percent of the total, while 23 new fatalities raised the death toll to 7,862, which is 1.91 percent of the total number.
The Food and Drug Administration has warned health care professionals and the general public against buying two disposable face mask brands that are “unnotified” or have not gone through the agency’s evaluation.
In an advisory dated Nov. 6, 2020, the FDA identified these brands as “Day Maker Disposable Face Mask” and “AINBEI Disposable Protective Masks”.
“All concerned establishments are warned not to distribute, advertise, or sell the said violative medical device products until the Product Notification Certificates are issued, otherwise, regulatory actions and sanctions shall be strictly pursued,” it said.
Meanwhile, FDA director general Eric Domingo told ABS-CBN News on Monday “AINBEI” and “Day Maker” masks needed to be registered with the FDA because they were being sold as medical-grade masks or for use in medical settings.
The FDA urged the Bureau of Customs to restrain the entry of unevaluated and uncertified products.
The OCTA Research Team has asked the authorities to provide adequate and accessible testing, effective contact tracing and supportive isolation facilities to families who fled to evacuation centers due to the recent typhoons.
In its report for the period November 9 to 15, the experts from
University of the Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas also urged local government units to improve strategies and conditions at evacuation centers to ensure COVID-19 was not transmitted among residents displaced by the typhoon and flooding.
These include social distancing, the wearing of face masks and face shields.
"Given the reality that more typhoons are set to visit the country in the coming weeks, we suggest that LGUs seriously consider improving their current evacuation strategies and plans to prevent further viral transmissions during a disaster by ensuring that minimum health standards are followed in evacuation centers apart from the provision of adequate and accessible testing, effective contact tracing and supportive isolation facilities to families stranded in these facilities," the OCTA researchers said.
Baguio City and Davao City have been deemed as LGUs under urgent concern.
"We list LGUs of concern or high-risk areas based on high cases per day, high positivity rate, high attack rate, and/or high hospital occupancy," the OCTA researchers said.
"We are concerned that these LGUs may experience high hospital burden in the coming weeks that may stress their health care systems and overwhelm their medical front-liners," they added.
The researchers asked "the private sector to intensify their efforts to complement the initiatives of the government in providing safe workplaces, the provision of adequate testing as needed, ensuring of compliance with minimum health standards, and implementation of effective contact tracing in the workplace."
"The cooperation of the business establishments will significantly reduce the risk of workplace transmissions while jump-starting economic recovery," OCTA added. With AFP