Additional incentives may be needed to attract more potential vaccine manufacturers – DOST

Published April 17, 2021, 3:16 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) cited on Saturday. April 17, the need for the government to provide “additional incentives” to pharmaceutical companies who will go into manufacturing of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and non-COVID vaccines in the county.

This picture shows vials of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at a pharmacy in Paris on February 25, 2021. – Private practitioners in France started vaccinating vulnerable patients between 50 and 64 at their medical offices on February 25, as part of a new stage in the country’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

DOST Secretary Fortunato “Boy” T. de la Peña said to attract more firms to locally produce vaccines, more incentives should be given to them, aside from the five to six year-income tax holiday and preferential treatment in biddings.

“We have existing laws on incentives for preferred companies and for preferred areas of investment. Maybe, there will be a need for additional incentives in this case,” he told the ABS-CBN’s ANC in an interview.

“I think the idea now is to have a certain specific location where the vaccine producers can locate altogether,” he added.

De la Peña said noted that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is taking the lead in negotiation with the six prospective vaccine developers that will be operating in the country, while the DOST’s role focused on vaccine evaluation and selection.

In an online media forum on Thursday, April 15, DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development Rowena Cristina L. Guevara, who leads the Task Group on Vaccine Evaluation and Selection (TG-VES), announced that at least two local pharmaceutical companies could possibly produce their own COVID-19 vaccines by “end of 2022” under a fill-and-finish vaccine manufacturing arrangements.

She said out of the six companies that expressed their interest to go into manufacturing of vaccines in the country, two were aggressively pushing their plan to produce coronavirus vaccines.

De la Peña justified the country’s bid to locally produce its own vaccines by end of 2022.

“There are actually a number of things that are involved here, if you want immediate vaccine production, the only way we can do is to have what we call a fill and finish approach, that means we have to import in bulk the materials that are to be injected and you put them in that vials that will be needed for the vaccination, even that it still needs certain time to prepare,” he explained.

“First of all, the agreement between the Filipino companies involved and vaccine developers from outside has to be facilitated, and consummated and then they have to prepare the facilities for the fill and finish and that has to be subjected to quality and standards check by our FDA. We are now in the second quarter of the year and so the estimate , is that the shortest time that we can have that is 2022,” he added.

He noted that as early as 2020, the DOST started talks with the local vaccine manufacturers.

“But, the other thing of course is that either these local companies in partnership with foreign vaccine developers who will do the fill and finish approach here can actually start to proceed already to the full-fledged vaccine production–meaning to say they will produce the vaccines here from the beginning and they will have to finish up to the end until they are already in the vials that are needed but that would require a transfer of technology because we do not have our own technology yet and that is the reason why we are pushing for the creation of the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines because the vaccine development will be done there,” de la Peña said.

He said the proposed Virology Science and Technology Institute or VIP will serve as the research and development arm of our country that would conduct studies on viruses affecting not only humans, but also animals, plants and crops.

“That is the longer term solution to set up the Virology Science and Technology Institute . It will take at least two years to have it operational and that is when we can produce and look into the development of our own vaccines,” de la Peña said.

During the interview, the DOST chief disclosed the profile of the six local firms that were planning to venture into local vaccine manufacturing.

He said one of the firms is “a long-term partner of a Chinese vaccine developer”, while one company “has connection with a vaccine developer in Germany.”

The DOST official said the other firm has extensive facilities in Asia. “All the vaccines that we need are being manufactured by their prospect foreign partner, these are: rubella, polio, HIV, TB, COVID and other non-COVID-19 vaccines.”

In late March, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez identified the 6 firms. These were Greentech, Glovax Biotech, IG Biotech, New Marketlink, Lloyds Laboratories, and Unilab.