The Palace on Monday, September 7, highlighted the recommendations of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) sub-Technical Working Group (TWG) for Vaccine Development on the zoning guidelines that will be used in the implementation of vaccine clinical trials for COVID-19.
In his regular press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson and concurrent IATF spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, Jr said that while the World Health Organization Solidarity Trial (WHO ST) shall be prioritized in the assignment of trial zones, independent trials shall also be considered in a way that it will not be deprived of trial sites.
“Ang mga tatanggap ng bakuna sa ilalim ng World Health Organization Solidarity Trial ay kukunin mula sa lima hanggang sampung barangay na may pinakamataas na COVID cases,” said Secretary Roque.
Data on this will be coming from the Department of Health-Epidemiology Bureau (DOH-EB), while the DOH Centers for Health Development (DOH Regional Offices) will be responsible for monitoring, and the DOH-EB will be managing the database of all trial participants.
“Ang trial sites ay nasa barangay level po. Ang census sa bawat household ay kukunin sa barangay para makilala ang mga residente at masiguro ang follow-up,” said Sec Roque. In addition, transient residents will not be included in the trials unless they provide proof that they will be staying at the trial site for the next two years.
Independent clinical trials that will be conducted by private vaccine manufacturers will also be assigned trial zones in such a way that there will be no competition among other teams conducting vaccine trials, said Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), which is the lead agency of the IATF’s sub-TWG on Vaccine Development.
Secretary de la Peña, who was a resource person in the said press briefing, said that in case of outbreak situations, WHO ST vaccine teams can move into the affected barangay where they can conduct their vaccine trials provided that there will be facilities that they would need such as storage for vaccines, among others. If they need more facilities, the vaccines team can move to the adjacent barangay, said the DOST chief.
In case of shortfalls in the recruitment of trial participants by specific barangays, the deficit can be taken from other barangays with faster recruitment to meet the total target sample size. Further, a Memorandum of Agreement between the DOST and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), witnessed by the appropriate local government unit (LGU) officials and the Vaccine Teams, is being proposed.
Moreover, the IATF’s sub-TWG for Vaccine Development also recommended the creation of a communication plan for the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials that will consider different levels of LGU and the criteria and considerations for recruitment.
De la Peña stressed the importance of close coordination with LGUs for zoning in barangays. He added that LGUs will be informed on how to prepare for the zoning and that the DOST already has a template or communication plan for this. In terms of follow-up of trail participants, it was recommended that alternative modes of follow-up must be put in place such as the use of barangay health workers or barangay volunteers, and the use of cellular phones for reminders.
The IATF also approved the recommendation to create a separate sub-TWG on Vaccine Procurement to be led by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM)-Procurement Service, with the DOH, Department of Finance, DBM, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Trade and Industry, Philippine International Trading Corporation, National Economic Development Authority, and the DILG as member agencies. It will be up to the DOH to decide on which vaccine and the number of vaccines to be procured, as well as the program of vaccine development.
In the same press briefing, Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian presented his city’s COVID-19 containment plan with focus on testing, tracing, and isolation. According to Mayor Gatchalian, some 26,498 individuals in the city have already been tested as of September 5, 2020, and that Valenzuela City has already reached the national government’s testing target of two percent of the city’s population.
In terms of tracing, Mayor Gatchalian highlighted the use of an automated contact tracing system in Valenzuela City and the opening of the Valenzuela City Mega Contact Tracing Center last month. Valenzuela also partnered with the DOST on the development of a predictive tool through the integration of the Valenzuela Contact Tracing app with the DOST’s FASSSTER, which is a web-based disease surveillance platform. Lastly, Valenzuela implements the “no home quarantine” protocol, encouraging its residents to use the city’s 14 isolation facilities, with a total bed capacity of 1,320 isolation beds.### OPS-PCOO