The Philippines has two potential sources of the highly-coveted COVID-19 vaccine – the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility and China.
Most optimistic projections have the vaccine ready before 2020 ends.
FAIR DISTRIBUTION FOR ALL
Several countries are concerned about the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available, since countries with access might prioritize their own citizens before sharing it with the rest of the world, the reason why the COVAX Facility is strongly backed by the World Health Organization (WHO), since it is where participating countries will be guaranteed fast and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
“COVAX is the only truly global solution to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “For the vast majority of countries, whether they can afford to pay for their own doses or require assistance, it means receiving a guaranteed share of doses and avoiding being pushed to the back of the queue, as we saw during the H1N1 pandemic a decade ago.”
Berkley explained that even countries able to purchase and secure their own vaccines directly from manufacturers will benefit from COVAX because the scheme reduces “the risks associated with individual candidates failing to show efficacy or gain licensure.”
Seventy-five countries have submitted expressions of interest to be a part of the COVAX Facility. According to WHO, these countries would finance the vaccines and partner with 90 lower-income countries that would be supported through voluntary donations to Gavi’s COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
The 165 countries, including the Philippines, will enjoy rapid, fair, and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. Once COVAX is fully financed, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that participating governments such as the Philippines will have its share of the vaccine.
The WHO said that the goal of COVAX is to deliver two billion doses of safe and effective medicine by the end of 2021. These vaccines must have passed regulatory approval and WHO prequalification.
The vaccines will be delivered to the participating countries, and the number of vaccines will be proportionate to their populations. Healthcare workers will be given priorities to the vaccines.
Extra vaccine doses will be made available to any country based on its need, vulnerability, and COVID-19 threat. At the same time, the COVAX Facility will maintain a “buffer of doses” in case of emergencies and for humanitarian use.
WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swminathan gave COVAX her seal of approval.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, like every health crisis, also presents us with opportunities,” she said. “A vaccine that is affordable and accessible to all will help us address systemic health inequalities. We need all countries to support COVAX to achieve this goal and bring an end to the acute phase of the pandemic.”
Countries that have submitted expressions of interest to the facility are Argentina, Armenia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
It seems the Philippines has all bases covered when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine as China vowed to consider the country’s request to be given first priority.
A report from the Chinese Global Television Network said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin affirmed President Duterte’s remarks during the 2020 State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) that China will give priority to its “friendly neighbor” should it succeed in developing a vaccine for COVID-19.
“Since the COVID-19 outbreak, China and the Philippines have been helping and supporting each other in the efforts to fight the pandemic, attesting to the mutual cooperation that has brought out a new highlight in bilateral relations,” said Wang. “We are willing to give priority to the vaccine request made by China’s friendly neighbor the Philippines.”
There are two vaccines that are currently being developed that show much promise.
These are from Moderna Inc., which is based in Massachusetts, and Oxford University in England.
The University of Oxford vaccine appears to be leading the pack as its head scientist, Sarah Gilbert, said that it has an 80 percent probability of stopping people exposed to COVID-19 patients from developing the virus, according to Bloomberg Newsweek. Gilbert said she would know by September if that is indeed the case.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine induced a robust immune response and prevented the virus from replicating in the noses and lungs of monkeys.
The study said this prevention of the virus from replicating in the noses and lungs is crucial in the prevention against further spread of the virus.
The scientific journal The Lancet reported that Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine produces strong immune response.
Prof. Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial at Oxford University and co-author of the study, said that Phase 1 and 2 data for their COVID-19 vaccine showed no “unexpected reactions.” However, they must still continue with their “rigorous clinical trial program” in order to confirm the vaccine in humans.
Oxford is working hand-in-hand with the UK-based global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to mass-produce the vaccines and eventual distribution.