Belgian pharmaceutical company Janssen is set to conduct the clinical trial of its COVID-19 vaccine in five sites in the Philippines, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said today.
“Our Vaccine Expert Panel has yet to identify the people who are included in this trial. But the sites, they have already mentioned,” Vergeire said in English and Filipino in an interview with news program Unang Hirit.
“We have five assigned sites for this Janssen. We will tell them about this in the coming days once the information is complete,” the government official said.
Vergeire added that Janssen’s application to conduct clinical trials in the country was approved before the end of 2020. Three pharmaceutical companies—the China-based Sinovac and Clover, and the Russian firm Gamelaya— have yet to complete the documents required to conduct trials in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, the health official encouraged local government units (LGUs) who plan to purchase COVID vaccines to coordinate with the Department of Health (DOH), because they are prohibited from buying them directly from pharmaceutical companies. Several local governments have announced their plans to provide free COVID vaccines to their residents, including Makati, Manila, and Caloocan.
“The only one who can buy the vaccine is the national government through the DOH… But we still call on LGUs to have a unified plan with us so that we are organized and there is no duplication because our countrymen might be put at risk [in case they are vaccinated several times],” she said.
The Philippines has yet to receive any COVID vaccine while neighboring countries Singapore and Indonesia — which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia—have already received vials of the much-needed drug last month.
The Philippines has the second-highest number of cases in the region at 478,761. This includes 9,263 deaths and 448,279 recoveries.
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