The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that a vaccine for COVID-19 may become available in the Philippines by March 2021.
FDA Director-General Rolando Enrique Domingo said that this is a possibility amid the recent developments in the United Kingdom, United States of America, and other countries. Previously, the government said that COVID-19 vaccines may reach the Philippines by the second quarter of next year.
He also added that the process of approving a vaccine will be shortened—from six months to 21-28 days—after President Duterte issued an executive order allowing the FDA to grant an emergency use authorization (EUA) to possible COVID-19 vaccines that will enter the country.
The United Kingdom has approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 candidate vaccine for emergency use. Meanwhile, Pfizer and Moderna are now also in the process of securing an EUA from US health regulators, said Domingo.
Domingo said that pharmaceutical companies may apply for an EUA in the Philippines after they secure an EUA from their respective governments.
“Kapag nag-apply po sila dito sa atin, then maaring by first few weeks of January ay meron na rin po tayong maibigay na emergency use authorization at baka mapaaga ng kaunti or baka magkaroon ng chance na baka mga March ay magkaroon na ng bakuna dito sa Pilipinas [If they apply to us, then maybe by the first few weeks of January we will also be able to provide them an emergency use authorization. Also, there may be a chance that by March we will have a vaccine here in the Philippines],” said Domingo during the Malacanang press briefing.
The FDA chief said that those who already secured an EUA from the other countries would likely apply in the Philippines.
“Ang mauuna siguro yung mga mayroon nang EUA [from other countries] katulad ng Pfizer, Sinovac, Sinopharm, Moderna, AstraZeneca. Ito po ay mga nag-apply na. Kapag nag-apply na po sila sa atin, within 21 to 28 days ay mabibigyan po natin ng desisyon kung approved or disapproved ang kanilang application [Those who already have EUA [from other countries] like Pfizer, Sinovac, Sinopharm, Moderna, AstraZeneca will probably come first. These are the ones who have already applied. When they apply to us, within 21 to 28 days we can give a decision if their application is approved or disapproved],” said Domingo.
Domingo said it “will be up to the decision of the program implementers” on who should be prioritized to receive the vaccines once already available.
He also added that the Department of Health (DOH) is now gearing to come up with an educational campaign about the potential risk and benefits of vaccines, noting that vaccination is not mandatory.
“Hindi po kayo pwedeng pilitin, hindi pwedeng sapilitan. Kapag tayo ay nagpabakuna kailangan naiintidihan natin kumpleto kung ano ang benepsiyo nito at kung ano ang posibleng adverse events or side effects [You cannot force a person to be vaccinated. Before vaccination, we need to fully understand the benefits as well as the possible adverse events or side effects],” Domingo in a separate press briefing.
“Ang gagawin po talaga ng DOH at pinaplano na nila, ay talagang education campaign for people to be able to understand what vaccination is, what it is for, what are the risks and benefits, so that people can make an informed decision. Wala pong pwedeng pilitin na magpabakuna [What the DOH is really going to do and they are already planning, is really an education campaign for people to be able to understand what vaccination is, what it is for, what are the risks and benefits, so that people can make an informed decision. No one can be forced to get vaccinated],” he added.