The Department of Health (DoH) on Wednesday claimed no pressure on the need to prioritize certain vaccine manufacturers despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s preference for pharmaceutical units from China and Russia.
The providers will undergo proper regulatory processes regardless of which countries the vaccine would come from.
This came after President Rodrigo Duterte on a late Monday night expressed that he favors anti-COVID-19 vaccines from China and Russia more than other Western countries.
He claimed have asked for advance payments.
“Vaccines will go through the usual and regular regulatory process. Whatever the regulations in the country will also be implemented,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told the members of the media.
She said no commitments are yet made with firms in accordance with the law as specific medical findings will still need to be studied carefully.
Only when the vaccines are approved and are ready for delivery that the government can release funds for the payments.
“We won’t make a commitment for us to pre-pay a specific vaccine because based on the RA (Republic Act 9184) we need to know more about their technical specifications that will be submitted and approved,” she said.
Under the RA 9184 or the General Procurement Reform Act, eligible parties will have to undergo competitive bidding which will be made transparent and publicly monitored.
Vergeire said that despite these provisions, the DoH is continuously in discussion with other emerging developers to increase the country’s chances of getting a vaccine for COVID-19.
Among the initiatives joined by the Philippines include the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility which allows for vaccine access to low to middle-income countries, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) Solidarity trials for vaccines that is joined by several manufacturers from different countries.
The country is also currently part of the WHO solidarity trials which are for off-label drugs currently studied on several moderate and severe COVID-19 patients.
Vergeire said that as of 7 September, 1,009 patients have passed the criteria and are now being administered with the off-label drugs Interferon and Remdesivir as part of the study in 24 trial sites in the country.
It includes the areas of Metro Manila, Baguio, Batangas and Davao City.
She said that the DoH is currently waiting for the arrival of the additional supplies of Remdesivir and Interferon. The shipment is for 1,000 vials.
Another off-label drug is also set to be added to the list of medications used in the study which will be announced to the public once information has been completed.
Meanwhile, Vergeire said that the DoH likewise continues initiatives with other manufacturers which have signed the confidentiality data agreement such as China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm, Russia’s Gamaleya, Australia’s Seqirus and the Adimmune from Taiwan with more comments and evaluations still being considered.