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.