Philippines achieving vax self-reliance should be pandemic legacy

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If the Philippines is successful in developing its own Covid-19 vaccine, it would be the country’s “legacy” during the pandemic, according to Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar.

Last week, DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara said the national government is currently in talks with six potential local vaccine manufacturers, two of which have been “aggressive” in planning for local production of Covid-19 vaccines.

In his weekly program “Cabinet Report: The New Normal,” Andanar expressed optimism over plans for the local production of Covid-19 vaccines.

Citing Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato dela Peña, he said developing vaccines is not new to Filipinos since the Philippines donated vaccines to China in 1939 through the Philippine Red Cross.

Dela Peña said the vaccines were produced in the serum and vaccine laboratory in Alabang, which was operated by the University of the Philippines’ College of Public Health, then known as the Institute of Hygiene.

“Di na ito bago sa atin, ginawa na natin ito dati, nagpadala pa nga tayo ng bakuna sa China noong 1939…At tulad niya [dela Peña], ako’y paniwala na kaya ulit nating gawin ito muli (This is not new to Filipinos, we have done this before, we sent vaccine to China in 1939…And like him, I believe we can do it again),” Andanar said.

In light of currently limited Covid-19 vaccine global supply, Andanar said it is about time for the country to build self-sufficiency in developing vaccines.

“Sa kabila ng krisis na hinaharap natin ngayon, pag-isipan natin: Can we be more self-reliant as a person, as a community, as a country? Siguro iyan na rin ang isang dapat maging legacy ng pandemya, na pagkatapos nito ang Pilipino ay sana mas self-reliant dahil kaya naman natin (Despite the crisis we are facing, perhaps it’s time for us to think: ‘Can we be more self-reliant as a person, as a community, as a country? Maybe that should be one of the legacies of the pandemic, that after this, Filipinos should be more reliant because we can do it),” he said.

He, meanwhile, urged the nation to join efforts to help and pray for those affected by the ongoing health crisis.

“Ipagpatuloy po natin ang pagtutulungan at panalangin hindi lamang para sa ating sarili kundi para na rin sa labis na apektado dito sa atin at sa mundo (Let’s continue our efforts to help and pray not just for ourselves but for those severely affected by the pandemic here and in other parts of the globe),” he added.

Dela Peña also expressed confidence over efforts to develop a vaccine, saying it is possible as long as the government has “political will.”

“Mataas ang level of confidence ko na kaya natin (I have a high level of confidence that we can do it)… All we need is political will,” he said.

Last week, DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara said the national government is currently in talks with six potential local vaccine manufacturers, two of which have been “aggressive” in planning for local production of Covid-19 vaccines.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said the possibility of having Covid-19 vaccines produced in the country is an “answered prayer.”

“Parang dasal natin ito sa gobyerno kasi historically, the Philippines is one of the laggard, sabi nila because there’s a lot of paperwork at kung anu-ano ang hinihingi (It’s the government’s answered prayer because historically, they are saying the Philippine is one of the laggard [nations] because there’s a lot of paperwork and has so many demands),” he said.

To support the local production of vaccines, Duterte told appropriate government agencies to hasten the processing of requirements.

There is currently no local vaccine manufacturer in the Philippines. Vaccines being used are currently being imported from other countries.

Last Thursday, the Philippines received another delivery of 500,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses from China’s Sinovac Biotech.

The shipment brings the country’s Covid-19 vaccine supply to around 3.5 million doses, including doses from British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca through the World Health Organization’s COVAX.

The Philippines aims to secure 148 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from several companies to inoculate an initial 50 to 70 million Filipinos this year.

The bulk of vaccine doses are expected to arrive by the second and third quarters of the year.

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