Bong Go supports efforts to locally manufacture vaccines and establish virology institute

To eventually achieve ‘vaccine self-reliant PH’, preparations must start now

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go underscored the importance of learning from the experiences brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and being more proactive in preparing for other similar crises in the future. In particular, Go emphasized that in order to address the country’s limited vaccine supply and heavy reliance on global sources, preparations and initiatives to locally manufacture vaccines in the Philippines must start now.

Go earlier lauded the ongoing efforts of the national government, in coordination with the private sector, to boost the Philippines’ capabilities to locally manufacture and eventually develop its own vaccines.

In an interview on Saturday, April 17, Go said that President Rodrigo Duterte himself has instructed concerned public officials to expedite government processes for pharmaceutical companies seeking to locally manufacture COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

“Sinabihan niya (Duterte), si (Department of Trade and Industry) Secretary Mon Lopez na kung sakaling may mag-apply na manufacturing company ay tulungan po,” said Go.

“Ang sabi (ng Pangulo), ang ‘bibliya’ (ng gobyerno) dito ay huwag pahirapan, kundi tulungan kaagad ang mga nais tumulong para makapaglagay ng sarili nating manufacturing po ng bakuna,” he added.

Go earlier stressed the need to accelerate arrangements for public-private partnerships in manufacturing vaccines locally, with the DTI at the helm. He urged concerned agencies to support these initiatives and help expedite the setting-up process, but also asked the companies to ensure all requirements are met in accordance with existing laws and regulations.

As the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines remains limited, Go also confirmed that Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a phone call on April 13, both stressed the importance of ramping up vaccine production and the need to mobilize Russian vaccines to as many countries as possible.

“Isa po sa ginagawa ng gobyerno, nakikiusap po tayo sa ibang bansa. Ito po ang panahon na kailangan nating makipagtulungan at makiusap sa ibang bansa dahil sila po ang merong supply ng bakuna. Sila po ang merong mga manufacturing company,” said Go.

He added that the government is expecting to receive 500,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccines from Russia soon.

“So, ang sinabi naman po ni Russian President Putin, tutulong sila. Bagama’t wala pong pinangakong numero o kailan, inaasahan po natin na darating ang Sputnik V vaccine mula sa Russia ngayong buwan o sa susunod… na 500,000 doses,” Go mentioned.

“Kasi po initially, ang ibinigay lang nila ay 100,000. Pinakiusapan po sila ng gobyerno na gawing 500,000. I think may unang darating na 20,000 na parang pilot run… kasi pag-aaralan pa ang temperature (for storage) na kailangan. Napakalaking tulong na po ito, pandagdag na sa tuluy-tuloy na pagbabakuna sa ating bansa,” he added.

Meanwhile, Go said that in the long-term, the Department of Science and Technology is presently preparing for the establishment of a virology institute in the Philippines, which will eventually enable the country to develop its own vaccines and other related drugs against diseases.

“Sa ngayon po ay pinag-aaralan ng DOST ‘yan. ‘Yan po ang magandang balita kasi maski si Pangulong Duterte, pabor sa vaccine institute. It should be our long-term goal,” explained Go.

The Senator said that these efforts are intended to avoid similar situations where poorer nations are left with fewer supplies of vaccines as compared to richer and more developed countries that have early on invested in health sciences and medical research.

“Kakasabi lang ng WHO (World Health Organization) na talagang inequitable po ang distribution ng bakuna, so dapat po maghanda tayo. Ang ating gobyerno has allocated PhP50 million in the GAA (General Appropriations Act) for the detailed engineering design para sa institute. It is planned to be built in Tarlac,” he shared.

Citing the unpredictable nature of pandemics, Go highlighted the importance of a more proactive approach to ensure that the country is well-prepared should future health crises occur.

“Hindi natin alam kung kailan darating itong panibagong pandemya sa buhay natin. Huwag na po yung mabibigla nanaman tayo dahil hindi tayo naging handa. Mas mabuting proactive na tayo at pag-aralan natin ang lahat ng puwede nating gawin, dahil talagang mahirap matamaan po nitong pandemyang ganito,” he said.

Bong Go lauds ongoing efforts to locally manufacture and develop vaccines in the Phl

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go lauded the ongoing efforts of the national government, in coordination with the private sector, to boost the Philippines’ capabilities to locally manufacture and eventually develop its own vaccines. He said that this will allow the country to eventually veer away from reliance on the international market for vaccines and other medicines.

“Napakalaki po ng potensyal ng ating bansa na mag-produce ng sarili nating mga gamot at bakuna laban sa samu’t saring mga sakit. Napapanahon na po upang pag-aralan natin kung papaano tayo magiging self-reliant pagdating sa aspetong ito,” reiterated Go.

According to Go, who also serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, this initiative will not only help boost local vaccine supply, but can also help increase production of vaccines in the world market in the future.

In line with this, Go welcomed the active participation and show of interest of various pharmaceutical companies in locally manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines.

Late in March, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said that the Board of Investments has been in discussion with companies which are keen on producing COVID-19 vaccines locally.

During a televised meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, April 15, Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña also disclosed that the government is in talks with potential local vaccine manufacturers in a presentation on “Vaccine Self-Reliant Philippines”.

During the said meeting, the DTI also presented its ongoing efforts to help attain vaccine self-reliance by supporting local manufacturing initiatives.

“Bagama’t mid- to long-term solution ito sa ating hangarin na magkaroon ng sapat na supply ng ligtas at epektibong bakuna sa bansa, maging bukas ang ating isipan at suportahan natin ang mga ganitong inisyatibo,” Go said.

“Hindi natin alam kung ano pa ang mga idudulot na problema ng COVID-19 sa susunod na mga buwan. Hindi rin natin alam ano pang pandemya ang haharapin natin sa susunod na mga taon. Mas mabuting maging proactive at handa tayo,” he emphasized further.

Go also stressed the need to accelerate arrangements for public-private partnerships in manufacturing vaccines locally, with the DTI at the helm. He urged concerned agencies to support these initiatives and help expedite the setting-up process, but also asked the companies to ensure all requirements are met in accordance with existing laws and regulations.

“Mas magiging matagumpay ito kung magtutulungan ang gobyerno at ang pribadong sektor. We need to always adopt a whole-of nation approach to overcome these challenges,” he said.

“Hindi ito laban ng gobyerno lamang, laban ito ng buong sambayanang Pilipino at ng buong mundo. Kaya nga po bayanihan ang isinisigaw natin noong simula palang. Bigyan natin ng oportunidad ang lahat na tumulong,” he added.

Meanwhile, Go said that the establishment of a virology institute, which will eventually enable the country to develop its own vaccines and other related drugs against diseases, such as COVID-19, should be the long-term goal.

“It is for this reason that I recently echoed President Duterte’s call to establish a virology institute that will capacitate the country to conduct scientific research initiatives on preventing and treating various viruses and diseases,” he said.

Go said that this initiative is intended to avoid a repetition of the present situation where poorer nations are left with fewer supplies of vaccines as compared to richer and more developed countries that have early on invested in health sciences and medical research.

Acting as a venue for both local and international scientists to collaborate on studying viruses of agricultural, industrial, clinical, and environmental importance, Go mentioned that the proposed institute will serve as the premier research and development institute in the field of virology in the country. It will encompass all areas in viruses and viral diseases in humans, plants, and animals.

The government has already allocated an amount of PhP50 million in the 2021 General Appropriations Act for the detailed engineering design of the virology institute which is planned to be built in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac. The institute project is one of the projects included in the government’s Build! Build! Build! infrastructure program.

Measures have also been introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to institutionalize the proposed virology research.

Bong Go reiterates appeal for more modular hospitals and ICU beds to treat severe COVID-19 patients

Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go reiterated his appeal to concerned agencies to fast track the expansion and construction of additional modular hospitals equipped with COVID-19 isolation facilities and intensive care unit beds in order to address the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country, especially in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces.

“Huwag nating hintayin na nag-aagaw buhay na sa labas ng mga ospital ang ating mga kababayang may sakit. Gawin natin ang lahat ng ating makakaya para sagipin at gamutin sila,” began Go.

“I laud the continuing efforts of the government to provide more isolation facilities for people with mild and moderate COVID-19 cases; however, the need for more facilities that can handle severe and critical conditions must also be considered,” he stressed.

During President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘Talk to the People’ public address on Monday, April 12, National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. disclosed that the country is in need of 2,000 additional ICU beds to respond to the outbreak. Metro Manila hospitals altogether have 1,395 ICU beds at present.

To meet the demand, the government initiated several expansion projects with the aim of generating an additional 1,045 ICU beds for critical cases and 1,178 beds for moderate and severe cases. The projects include:

– 110 additional beds in Quezon Institute (moderate and severe);

– 960 beds from the National Center for Mental Health (moderate);

– 300 beds from the Manila Times College in Subic (mild and asymptomatic);

– 166 additional beds in New Clark City, Tarlac (mild and asymptomatic);

– 200 beds in Eva Macapagal Terminal in Manila (mild and asymptomatic);

– 100 beds in Orion, Bataan Port Terminal (mild and symptomatic);

– 280 hotel beds from Oplan Kalinga for the Philippine General Hospital, East Avenue Medical Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, and Lung Center of the Philippines;

– 20 dialysis beds in National Kidney and Transplant Institute; and

– 88 beds in the modular hospital at LCP.

To further boost the healthcare system’s capacity, Senator Go urged the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to expedite its payments and settle its obligations to hospitals to ensure the unhampered provision of medical services. Both private and public hospitals in the NCR Plus area have committed to use the funds to purchase more new ICU beds.

“Ito pong pagdagdag ng mga ICU beds ng mga private hospitals and the LGU hospitals ay puwede naman po nilang gamitin ‘yong reimbursements from PhilHealth kaya malaki pong tulong ang … naging desisyon na magbayad kaagad ang PhilHealth, initially 60 percent ng kanilang outstanding claims starting March 2020 to April 2021,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said during the President’s address.

SBG calls on gov’t for more Covid-19 isolation tents and ICU beds

As chair of the Senate Committee on Health, I appeal to concerned agencies, with the help of the private sector, to expedite the construction and expansion of more modular facilities and tents equipped with COVID-19 isolation and ICU beds to cater particularly to those with severe conditions.

I laud the continuing efforts of the government to provide more isolation facilities for people with mild and moderate COVID-19 cases; however, the need for more facilities that can handle severe and critical conditions must also be considered.

In order to maximize our resources, I urge the government to identify locations where we can install these modular facilities and tents equipped with ICU beds, or existing structures that can be transformed into temporary health facilities to accommodate severe COVID-19 cases.

We need to double our efforts in order to reduce further the waiting time for patients needing urgent treatment or admission, provide faster medical transport and patient pick-up, and facilitate much improved use of critical care services in our health facilities.

Nakakaawa po ‘yung mga kababayan nating naghihingalo na tapos wala pang mahanap na ospital. Buhay po ang nakasalalay sa bawat minutong pag-aantay makakuha lang ng ospital, kama, at doktor para maalagaan sila.

Huwag nating hintayin na nag-aagaw buhay na sa labas ng mga ospital ang ating mga kababayang may sakit. Gawin natin ang lahat ng ating makakaya para sagipin at gamutin sila.

Moreover, we also need to augment our medical frontliners, particularly in critical areas where a significant number of them have been overburdened or, worse, also infected with COVID-19.

I laud the bayanihan efforts of nurses in the Visayas who expressed willingness to be deployed to the ‘NCR Plus’ areas. Patunay lamang po ito na sa kabila ng pandemya, malakas pa rin ang diwa ng bayanihan sa bansa.

I appeal to our health workers in other parts of the country with lower COVID-19 cases to also be ready to extend help in critical areas. In these trying times, we need a whole-of-nation approach to fully overcome this pandemic.

Bawat isa sa atin ay may tungkulin sa kapwa, sa ating komunidad, at sa ating bayan. Lahat tayo ay dapat maging bahagi ng solusyon. Laging tandaan na ang ating kooperasyon, bayanihan, at malasakit sa kapwa ay makapagliligtas ng buhay ng kapwa nating Pilipino!