Russia may tap 1,000 Filipino volunteers for Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine trials in PH

Russia may need 1,000 volunteers living in coronavirus-hit areas in the country for its upcoming clinical trials of the potential COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V, according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

(Joe Raedle / Getty Images / AFP / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Nograles said residents of Quezon City and other cities in Metro Manila may qualify for the clinical studies since they belong to communities with local transmission.

“Ang alam ko, they are looking for 1,000 volunteers so it will be purely voluntary. They have to be in community na may local transmission and so with that, I think some of the residents of QC might qualify for that,” he said over ABS-CBN News Channel Friday.

“But again it's on a voluntary basis but if they are looking for areas na may local transmission, then QC and other Metro Manila cities would be candidates for that,” said Nograles, co-chairman of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), the government’s policy-making board on the country’s coronavirus response.

According to Nograles, Russia would likely conduct random selection from the pool of volunteers.

“If I were to assume how they’re gonna do it, they would probably look into which cities have local transmissions and then from there, do a randomized pagpili (selection) or something to that effect,” he said.

“I think necessarily may mga (there are many) Quezon City residents who will be asked to join the clinical trials,” he added.

Russia recently announced it has developed a coronavirus vaccine and approved its limited use for health workers and other risk groups.

The approval of the vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute in Moscow, however, sparked safety concerns from some groups amid reports it has yet to finish phase 3 trials.

Russia has expressed willingness to supply vaccines to the Philippines, which President Duterte has welcomed. Manila has agreed to cooperate with Moscow on the clinical trials, production and supply of the vaccine.

On Thursday, Malacañang said the President may be injected with the Russian-made coronavirus vaccine as early as May, 2021.

Duterte recently volunteered to participate in the vaccine trials as a supposed gesture of trust and confidence.

The clinical trial phase 3 will be simultaneously conducted in the Philippines and Russia from October, 2020 to March, 2021.

Russia is expected to fund the vaccine studies, according to the Palace.

Vaccine search expanded

Apart from the Russian vaccine, the Department of Health (DOH) said the Philippines is already in talks with other vaccine developers worldwide.

“What we have right now, we are discussing and exploring avenues. We already have about 16 na mga vaccine manufacturers na may mga different stages na tayo ng pakikipag-usap and ito ay through our bilateral partners ,” said DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire during a media briefing.

Vergeire also said that the Philippines also joined the COVAX Facility.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the COVAX Facility is “designed to guarantee rapid, fair, and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for every country in the world.”

The country will also participate in the WHO Solidarity Trials for Vaccines.

“Lahat ng pwede magkaroon ng ganitong pagkakataon na makasali tayo sa clinical trials nila ay iniexplore ngayon ng ating government (All the possibilities for us to join in the different clinical trials are now being explored by our government),” said Vergeire.

“We are not very specific na sa Russian vaccine lang. Tinitingnan at mina-mapa natin lahat na meron ngayon sa buong mundo na makakabenefit sa ating mga kababayan ,” she added.

Antigen testing protocol

Meanwhile, Nograles said the government is finalizing the protocols for antigen testing to rapidly screen people with the coronavirus illness in the country.

Nograles said the country's testing efforts could be enhanced since the antigen test results could be available in just 30 minutes.

“That's why importante 'yung, kung ma-approve na sana yung protocols for the antigen testing, because antigen will take about 30 minutes to an hour, we are finalizing that,” he said over ABS-CBN News Channel.

Last month, Nograles announced the IATF directed a technical working group to prepare the guidelines on the new diagnostic test for coronavirus.

The antigen testing, which can detect a part of the coronavirus, is expected to give “more accurate” results at a faster turnaround. (With a report from Analou de Vera)