Philippines' COVID-19 Vaccine Hunter Fears Short Supply

Only 3% could get it if available by mid-2021.

Should a COVID-19 vaccine become available by mid-2021, short supply could leave just 3% of the Philippine population inoculated by the end of that year, the head of the country's expert panel on immunization said Thursday.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier called on the UN to ensure equity in vaccine supply for both rich and poor nations as superpowers like the U.S. place millions in advance orders.

"By the time a vaccine is developed, we won't have enough for everyone," said microbiologist and immunologist Nina Gloriani. The World Health Organization has formed an advisory group that will take care of allocation. Countries with high transmission rates are likely to be prioritized, she said. 

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"We’re talking about increasing to 20 percent, but it will need a lot of help from the private sector," she said.

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The Philippines will run human trials on several candidates. China's bet, Sinovac, applied for registration, the Food and Drug Administration said Thursday. Russia is also on board.

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In vaccine history, the quickest vaccine developed was for Ebola virus which took five years. COVID could outrun this with 12 to 18 months, if any among the 198 candidates are successful. 

But a vaccine is not the only solution, said both Gloriani and Philip Cruz a medical doctor at GlaxoSmithKline in the UK. Vaccine's development should be taken with "cautious optimism", and that other aspects in the pandemic response should remain aggressive, they said.

"It has to have multiple solutions in public health and disease control," said Cruz.

"We rely on everyone’s help para we can end the virus. Remember the basic principles of hygiene and sanitation," said Gloriani.

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