The lack of facilities, funding, and scientists is making it difficult for the Philippines to develop its own COVID-19 vaccine, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said in a media forum today.
President Rodrigo Duterte believes that an effective vaccine will become available soon—but from other countries. He even said that China and Russia have promised to provide it once theirs are approved. Duterte is even keen to participate in the clinical trials for Russia’s drug, which might be distributed in the Philippines in either November or December if its financier is to be believed.
The DOST said that the Philippines has to rely on foreign countries for a vaccine because the country does “not have the research facility to undertake the research” needed in developing one, said DOST Undersecretary Rowena Guevarra.
Making a vaccine “requires huge investments and resources,” added DOST Executive Director Jaime Montoya.
“We do admit that we still have a lot of things to do and to upgrade and enhance in order to attain this degree of ability to manufacture vaccines,” he said.
“[V]accine development would require significant scientific talent development involving several disciplines, [as well as] planning, infrastructure, and capacity building, of the state of the art facilities and training of human resources. As far as I know, we also have to upgrade our full value chain as far as vaccine availability is concerned,” he added.
However, Montoya said that despite these challenges, the Duterte administration is already deeply involved in “negotiations and discussions and plans in order to achieve some degree of vaccine self-sufficiency so that we are able to respond to the pandemic.”
The Philippines is in discussion with 16 foreign pharmaceutical companies for the possible purchase of an effective COVID-19 vaccine, the Department of Health said.
While Duterte is counting on the availability of a vaccine to solve the Philippines’ problems, the World Health Organization warned leaders yesterday that instead of waiting for one, they should instead improve their response to the pandemic. Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the organization’s Western Pacific director, said that even if a vaccine were to be approved soon, “production capacity will not really meet the demand [of] the entire world.”