Garin airs misgivings on gov’t funds to be spent on WHO Solidarity trials

Published September 30, 2020, 9:17 PM

by Ben Rosario

Instead of spending P89 million for the development of an anti-COVID 19 vaccine, the Philippines should insist on contributing the expertise and industry of its scientists and medical experts for the effort being undertaken under the Solidarity trials of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Iloilo 1st District Rep. and former Department of Health (DOH) secretary Janette Garin (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, a former health secretary, said that if this is not possible, the country should convert the P89 million into discounts for the country’s orders for anti-COVID-19 vaccine that will be approved for public use.     

During the plenary presentation of the 2021 proposed budget for the Departmetn of Science and Technology, Garin,  aired serious misgivings over the allocation of the amount to  finance the conduct of public trials for vaccines being developed under the WHO solidarity trial.     

Garin, the senior minority leader of the House of Representatives, said this is the first time that government will be allocating funds for vaccines being developed for profit by private companies.      

Responding to Garin’s objection to the allocation of government funds for the development of COVID-19 vaccine, Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon said the Philippines is bound to follow the conditions set under the WHO Solidarity trials.       

This is a commitment of the government in exchange for the opportunity of the country to be prioritized as soon as the vaccine experimented on has been found potent enough to protect people against COVID 19. 

She noted that the Philippines has experienced hosting a number of vaccines for private pharmaceuticals, usually multinational firms, in the past.  However, firms requesting for public clinical trials are the ones volunteering to shoulder expenses. 

Garin stressed that firms experimenting on the vaccines pay for the fees of subjects volunteering to try the new formulas.     

“The fact that we are offering our country as venue for the Phase 3 of the trial is already a big contribution by our country,” she stressed,

According to her the expertise of  DOST scientists who will be tapped to help in the conduct of the vaccine trials should also be considered a huge contribution for the development of a vaccine.

“My appeal is that DOST would put a rider or provisions that in the conduct of this COVID-19 trials, any peso spent by government should redound as a discount once a vaccine is made available,” said Garin.

This proposal should be included as a special provision of the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Act, she said.