There is no vaccine for COVID-19 yet, and should there be one, the chances of us getting it first are pretty slim. However, if the Philippines wants to be one of the countries to gain access to it right away, participating in clinical trials would be of great help, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said on July 9.
According to Dr. Jaime Montoya, the Executive Director of DOST’s Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, participating in these trials is an effective strategy: “Ang ating pinakaepektibong estratehiya upang makamit natin ang ating objective ay ang partisipasyon natin sa mga clinical trials na isasagawa sa ating bansa sa pamamagitan ng ating pag-uusap sa mga nag-develop ng mga bakunang ito.”
“Ito’y makakasiguro na ang bakuna ay magiging available sa Philippines,” he said.
Should a vaccine be discovered, our participation would help hasten the registration of vaccines with the Food Drug Administration (FDA).
Montoya mentioned that we would be part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Solidarity Trial for possible COVID-19 vaccines.
University of the Philippines professor Dr. Nina Gloriani, who chairs the Vaccine Development Expert Panel of the DOST, said there are more than 100 vaccines being developed and tested globally, but the Philippines is eyeing the type makes use of the inactivated COVID-19 virus.
Some trials involve the use of a live and active virus, but using the inactive COVID-19 virus in tests has been deemed safer.
Gloriani added that the panel continues to monitor updates from vaccine trials all over the world, and mentioned several standouts, namely: a vaccine from Oxford University, a vaccine from American biotech company Moderna, and some vaccines being tested in China.
First, hospitals participating in the trials must be identified. The Philippine General Hospital, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Manila Doctors Hospital, San Lazaro Hospital, and Vicente Sotto Medical Center will be part of the trials.
The trials will involve around 1,000 to 5,000 volunteers, but it’s still subject to the World Health Organization. Said trials will be double blind—this means the investigator or the one administering the drug and the patient do not know whether the drug given was just a placebo, or the vaccine being tested.
Those aged 18 to 59 who run greater risk of contracting COVID-19 will be prioritized for these trials. This means health workers, medical professionals, frontliners, and close contacts of COVID-positive cases sit at the top of the list.
Children and the elderly—who are vulnerable to the virus—may later be included in the trials.
According to Gloriani, investigators will check up on the volunteers 6 months after immunization. The volunteers will also be monitored for up to 12 months to see the efficacy or effects of the trials.
Ideally, the clinical trials will run from October 2020 to March 2021.
There are a lot of steps for the trial, but Gloriani assured that the process of the vaccine trials would go through several levels of approval to ensure that the trials and vaccine would be safe for use.
Once a vaccine has been found, the final approval of the FDA is needed before it is release and distributed to the public.