MANILA — Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin M. Andanar said on Friday that a united country’s support for Filipino scientists can help us achieve our goal of becoming a vaccine self-reliant nation. once we are able to locally produce COVID-19 vaccines.
“From my last interview with DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña, we have all realized that the Filipino scientists can create anti-COVID-19 vaccines. Why do we need to pay attention to the Vaccine Self-Reliance Program? — Simple, the future of our nation depends 9n this, as we face the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sec. Andanar during the “Cabinet Report sa Teleradyo” on Friday, April 30, 2021.
Sec. Andanar emphasized that Filipinos should look forward to our country’s vaccine self-reliance, as it is a path to our brighter future and to a COVID-free Philippines.
“We have to support the talents that we have [in producing local vaccines]. We need to believe in ourselves, we need to believe and patronize the work of Filipinos,” he added.
According to Department of Health – Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (DOH-RITM) Director Dr. Celia Carlos, MD, our country has a history as a vaccine producer and vaccine exporter to neighboring countries.
She said our country started vaccine production in 1805 and that in the 1950s and 1960s the Biological Production Service Building was making vaccines for diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, and even antivenin for snakebites.
Dr. Carlos also shared that their agency has been working for the establishment of the Vaccine Self-Reliance Project I since 2018. The project is led by the RITM’s Biologicals Manufacturing Division and through it the country can lessen the spending on vaccine procurement from other countries.
“The objective of course is to support the national immunization program, so that there is an adequate vaccine supply and we ensure vaccine security and self-efficiency. Second is to have local [vaccine] production and capacity building for vaccine production to enable the country to reduce the vaccine cost,” Dr. Carlos said.
“We are targeting a number of vaccines, which are currently in our national immunization program. We thought of this because these vaccines are really needed by our children and infants,” added Dr. Carlos.
RITM – BPD Chief Dr. Noel Macalalad said that the establishment of local vaccine production can ensure the country’s self-reliance in case it becomes necessary for COVID-19 vaccines to be administered annually.
“We are looking forward na magtulong-tulong po ang lahat ngayon, we really need all government agencies to get together, also the private partners to help us in the endeavor towards vaccine self-reliance [We are looking forward for all of us to work together right now, we really need all government agencies to get together, also the private partners to help us in the endeavor towards vaccine self-reliance],” said Dr. Macalalad.
In fact, the country is looking to partner with four foreign companies for vaccine production. Filipino vaccine firm Glovax is working with South Korean company Eubiologics, to look into locally producing COVID-19 vaccines.
“The Philippines has a good friendship with Korea. It has a big potential, speaking of your population of a 100 million people. We are just willing to give our technology to the Philippines,” Eubiologics Business Development Team Head Seokkyu Kim said.
According to Kim, aside from the vaccine development technology they offer, they can also secure around 40 million doses of EuCorVac-19 vaccine for the Philippines.
Secretary Andanar showed Cuba as an example of a country which has a long history of vaccine development. The tiny nation is also facing the global pandemic by and addressing it by developing its own COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, Cuba ìs developing five potential vaccines.