PH pushes for local vax production, self-sufficiency

By Lade Jean Kabagani

April 27 2021, 9:05 am

<p><em>(Anadolu photo)</em></p>

(Anadolu photo)

MANILA – The country's vaccine czar on Monday said the government is bent on pushing through with its plans to establish local production of coronavirus vaccines.

National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 chief implementer Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. said the move would ensure a steady vaccine supply during a health crisis, such as the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.

"We are working on building the country’s vaccine sufficiency, particularly our capacity to manufacture and produce our own vaccines not just to address Covid-19 health crisis, but also to prepare for any future pandemic," Galvez said at a virtual Economic Development Cluster and Infrastructure Cluster forum for the Pre-State of the Nation Address on Monday.

The Philippines is hoping to replicate the Serum Institute of India (SII), India's largest vaccine producer which produces the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, known in India as Covishield.

Galvez earlier visited India to negotiate with SII for the acquisition of 30 million doses of the Novavax vaccine.

One of the topics tackled during the trip was the possibility to develop local production of vaccines in the Philippines.

"One of our agenda during our trip to India last month was to look into opportunities that will allow us to build on the same vaccine and medicine manufacturing capacity that India has," Galvez said.

He said he had met with the Department of Science and Technology Sec. Fortunato de la Peña and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez along with the country's vaccine experts to discuss the plan to establish local vaccine production.

The government targets "to encourage foreign vaccine manufacturers to establish domestic operations" on vaccine production in the Philippines, he said.

"We will achieve vaccine security and partner with domestic and international private pharmaceutical companies in developing our own capability in manufacturing vaccines domestically," he added. "For 2023, we envision for self-sufficiency and readiness for the pandemic and other disasters with the modernization and integration of our healthcare system."

With the ongoing negotiations of the Philippines for equitable vaccine acquisition, Galvez said the government has earmarked a total of PHP82.5 billion for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines, of which PHP70 billion have been sourced out from various multilateral loans and assumed savings.

He added that the PHP10 billion fund was appropriated under the Bayanihan II budget, while the PHP2.5 billion fund was sourced from the Department of Health's 2021 budget. (PNA)