COVID VACCINE TALKS. Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev (left), meets Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez (right) for his farewell courtesy call on Tuesday (Oct. 6, 2020). Khovaev and Lopez agree to include discussions on possible manufacturing of the Russian coronavirus vaccine in the Philippines-Russia Joint Economic Commission meeting next month. (Photo courtesy of DTI

MANILA – Discussions on the trial and possible manufacture of the Russian Covid-19 vaccine in the Philippines are progressing as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Russian embassy here are set for another round of talks on the matter next month.

This, after DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez and Russian Ambassador to the Philippine Igor Khovaev met on Oct. 6 for the latter’s farewell courtesy call wherein they also agreed to include the discussion on the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine during the Joint Economic Commission (JEC) meeting in November.

“Secretary Mon and Ambassador Igor also agreed to hold the Philippine-Russia JEC (meeting) this November. An important part of the agenda is the collaboration on vaccines,” DTI Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo told reporters in a text message Thursday.

Rodolfo mentioned that Russia’s offer is not only to supply the coronavirus vaccines but to collaborate for the possible manufacture of vaccines in the country, noting that Russia is the only country that offers in-country production for vaccines.

He added that Russia, through its embassy here, has been talking also with the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

It was also noted that the DOST is already engaging in discussions with Russia’s Gamaleya Institute and Russian Direct Investment Fund that launched the Sputnik V, the first registered Covid-19 vaccine in the world.

Rodolfo added that the Russian envoy mentioned that aside from Sputnik V, Russia has two other entities that are developing coronavirus vaccines.

“DTI together with other agencies is in coordination with Russian agencies and companies, and possible areas of cooperation would be on sale and distribution once necessary approvals are secured in accordance with Philippine laws, rules, and regulations,” DTI Assistant Secretary Allan Gepty said.

Gepty added that Russia is willing to venture into making the Philippines as its vaccine production hub provided that there is a pharmaceutical company that can handle full-scale production of the vaccine.

“I think this is something that the Philippines will have to prepare or build capacity. The road map of the vaccine development in the Philippines is in the medium term to have a local pharma company to establish a fill and finish for the vaccine. In the long term a virology science and technology institute has been requested to be established (currently a bill is filed in Congress) to build the capability initially for research and development and eventually to have our own full-scale vaccine manufacturing,” he said. (PNA