While we wait

The country’s Food and Drug Administration has presented what it calls a best-case scenario for a COVID-19 vaccine, which may be made available in the Philippines by April 2021.

This scenario may come up the stage, if clinical trials are completed by December or January, and a company would file an application, which means there will be an approved vaccine by next summer, FDA Director General Eric Domingo, replying to a question, said in a virtual press briefing on Friday.

This best-case scenario of between three and six months will allow those deeply involved in the vaccine to complete all their analyses which they will submit to the authorities posthaste.

This time frame is the experts’ estimate on Phase III clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines, Science Secretary Fortunato de la Peña explained in the same briefing.

The experts prefer to use the longer forecast in their estimate, since that would indicate that in that period they would have finished the clinical trials and probably already submitted to FDA the application and the results of their trial.

At the moment, the Philippines, which logged as at weekend more than 300,000 infections and more than 5,200 deaths from the coronavirus, is negotiating with 17 vaccine developers, with at least six of them having signed confidentiality disclosure agreements that would allow the sharing of their earlier trial results.

The Philippine government said it would prioritize the World Health Organization’s Solidarity Trial, which involves synchronic testing of several vaccines in different countries.

The WHO is scheduled to release its list of vaccines and protocols in October, which means it could only start recruiting patients by then.

“The fastest maybe that we can start (with the trial) is December, last quarter. And the vaccine trials according to experts will range from three to six months. I think the very early forecast that we have of 2nd quarter 2021 is still the best forecast that we can give,” de la Peña said.

This is amid the FDA’s promise to expedite approval procedures.

While health authorities are seeing a longer time for COVID-19 cases and deaths to double, there remain specific areas in Metro Manila where clustering of cases have been observed, and this, according to experts, must be considered.

We agree with health authorities that the public must continue observing health protocols and not let down their guard amid encouraging reports about COVID-19 vaccine soon in the country.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire put it suitably: “Protect yourselves. Let us not be complacent because we are hearing our health system capacity is improving. Let us continue to follow health protocols to prevent infection and protect our families.”

Even with the possibility of an approved vaccine before long, we should not let our guard down for our own—and others’—sake. Not even for a minute.

Topics: Food and Drug Administration , COVID-19 , Department of Health , Maria Rosario Vergeire , Eric Domingo , Fortunato de la Peña
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