• Melo Acuna

Vaccines now under Phase 3 trials; cold chain storage facilities assured

Three to four vaccines being subjected to trials in China

MANILA – Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago “Chito” L. Sta. Romana said they are facilitating contacts between the country’s Departments of Science and Technology and Health with their Chinese counterparts regarding the reported COVID-19 vaccine.

Speaking from Beijing at the regular midday press briefing hosted by Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, Ambassador Sta. Romana said the Chinese are into Phase 3 of at least three to four vaccines with one about to complete the Phase 3 trial and as “far as the results have been fairly good with no report of an adverse reaction.”

“There is another vaccine that is under Phase 3 trial and is also undergoing international experiment in Brazil and the United Arab Emirates,” he said. He added over a thousand Filipinos have enlisted in the Phase 3 trial in Abu Dhabi.

Ambassador Sta. Romana said the vaccines developed in China have been tried among Chinese citizens as “it is important to try it also with other citizens of other countries.” He added the Chinese now has a joint program with Indonesia and some Indonesian patients are undergoing the Phase 3 trial. A significant number of Brazilians have also participated in the trials.

“They are trying it with different nationalities,” he further said. He reported the Chinese are using the vaccine on an emergency basis for their frontline workers, especially those in hospitals dealing with COVID have been given the vaccine along with those in airports and coastal ports.

Chinese authorities, according to Ambassador Sta. Romana, hope to go into mass production soon. He said the Philippines happens to be one of the priority countries based on an agreement reached during the phone conversation between President Duterte and President Xi Jinping and reiterated when Foreign Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. met recently with State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi a fortnight ago.

“However, distribution will be a challenge, even if we are in the priority list because Chinese companies we have been in contact would have said that we need or the recipient countries should make sure they have the capability for receiving the vaccine which require cold chain storage,” he said.

He explained vaccines have to be stored in freezing conditions and “if exposed to tropical weather or to normal weather conditions, the vaccine could lose its effectiveness.”

“From our discussions with Chinese pharmaceutical companies, they have pointed out the next challenge is the distribution and the deployment of the vaccine,” Ambassador Sta. Romana said.

Sounding optimistic, Ambassador Sta. Romana said mass production and distribution will take place soon, as early as November and December “in terms of production.”

“And it will depend on our capability to receive the vaccines in terms of our facilities, in terms of distribution. However, they will have to comply with Philippine requirements from the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Science and Technology and Department of Health. I believe these agencies are already preparing for the Chinese vaccines,” he added.

It was also learned some local governments have begun distributing the vaccine or deploying it for certain citizens. He explained there are company executives and employees from different pharmaceutical companies involved in vaccine development who volunteered to take part in the different phases of the trials.

He added local transmission has been controlled and the only problem is how to deal with what’s been referred to as “imported cases – those coming from abroad, Chinese or foreigners bringing in the virus.” He explained Chinese authorities have been very strict in resting and quarantine for international arrivals.

In a related development, asked if the Philippines would have enough funds to build cold chain storage facilities, during the same press briefing, Budget and Management Secretary Wendell Avisado said “Surely, as the sun rises in the east, there will be funds for that because the President will never allow that we will run short of the requirements to make sure tht we have the storage facilities for all these vaccines.” (Melo M. Acuña)

Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago "Chito" L. Sta. Romana (left) and Budget and Management Secretary Wendell Avisado talking about COVID-19 vaccines and cold chain storage. (Screen Grab from Malacanang Press Briefing/Melo M. Acuna)

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