By Analou De Vera
The Department of Health (DOH) has welcomed the P10 million reward offer of President Duterte to any Filipino who can discover a vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) but reminded the public that developing a vaccine is a tedious process.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that vaccine development needs to undergo comprehensive research.
“Mahalagang malaman ng lahat na hindi ito basta-bastang matutuklasan at gaya ng lahat ng gamot, dadaan ito sa masusing pananaliksik,” said Vergeire in a press brieifing. [It is important for everyone to know that this is not a mere discovery and that like all medicine, it goes through comprehensive research.]
Vergeire said that based on scientific evidence as of today, there is no proven cure for COVID-19 yet.
“Maraming small clinical trials sa iba’t-ibang bansa pero hindi ito lahat conclusive. Lahat ito ay experimental pa lang,” she said. [There are many small clinical trials in different countries but these are not at all conclusive. They are all experimental.]
Vergeire noted that 20 hospitals in the country have joined the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Solidarity Trial. This is a large-scale international clinical trial to investigate and identify effective drugs that can be used to treat COVID-19.
The trial involves four treatment options: the investigational antiviral Remdesivir, antimalarial drug Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine, antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV Lopinavir with Ritonavir, and Lopinavir with Ritonavirplus Interferon beta-1a.
“We are optimistic that this megatrial, with over 90 participating countries, will promote the rapid generation of strong evidence for COVID-19, and ultimately stem this pandemic,” said Vergeire.
The Philippine General Hospital (PGH) on Thursday reiterated its call for COVID-19 survivors to donate their blood to help other patients recover from the disease.
PGH spokesman Dr. Jonas Del Rosario said their donated blood will be used for plasma therapy that can potentially improve the health condition of COVID-19 patients.
“Their antibodies may help save patients who are still battling the disease, especially the severe and critical cases,” said Del Rosario.
“There is no proven treatment yet for this although different medications and regimens are being investigated. And the vaccine against the novel coronavirus is not yet available,” he added.
Del Rosario said the therapy involves the “transfusion of plasma, the liquid component of blood, from a recovered patient to a sick patient.”
“Much like other organizations around the world, the PGH sees plasma therapy as a possible stop-gap to hold the virus at bay while more complex treatments are being developed,” he said.
“A vaccine is a year out but we can use the antibodies of those who have already survived to strengthen the immune system of those who are still battling the virus,” he added.