DOST gears up for Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in now taking purposive preparations for the World Health Organization (WHO) Solidarity Trial for the Covid-19 vaccine. DOST leads the Inter-Agency Task Force’s sub-technical working group on vaccine development.

DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña has expressed confidence the clinical trials would start soon. He said his agency would ensure the vaccines’ safety and efficacy. “We also want to be transparent to everyone,” de added.

DOST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development executive director Jaime Montoya reported that there were already three players which submitted the requirements to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  indicating their interest to conduct clinical trials in the Philippines.

Montoya identified them as the Gamaleya Research Institute of Russia, Janssen, and Sinovac. Several hospital sites are also preparing for the WHO Solidarity Trials, including hospitals in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao.

“We are also planning for a dry run, to test our readiness for the (Covid-19 vaccine) clinical trials. This will be in close coordination with the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government), and the (Bureau of) Customs,” Montoya said.

He explained that coordination with DILG is needed since the clinical trials would require the cooperation of communities. Coordination with Customs is likewise important because of the vaccines’ storage requirements.

“There will be zoning or places assigned to specific vaccines to avoid overlapping. The local governments will assist in the conduct of trials, such as transporting the patients, and other support to implement the clinical trial in their barangays,” Montoya added.

Since it normally takes five years to produce a vaccine, but people are attempting to produce the Covid-19 vaccine in one year or even less, “we are targeting a 50%  efficacy rate. This means that if (a vaccine is found to be) 50% effective, it already passed (the test), and we will move on to the next vaccine to be tested. We would also see if there are side effects,” he explained.  

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