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Production capability

Unfortunately for Filipinos, it is not difficult to believe the claim of a Balik Scientist of the Department of Science and Technology said the Philippines is the only country in Asia that does not produce vaccines for its own people.

“That is something we need to work on in preparation for another pandemic, or for the time that we really have to supply people with vaccines,” Dr. Annabelle Villalobos, a consultant of Johnson & Johnson Biopharmaceuticals, said during a DOST webinar on health research and development for COVID-19.

Villalobos said that while the country is not yet ready to manufacture its own vaccines, it can start with a simpler process of formulating, filling and packaging these, in which the active product ingredients will be imported from other countries if the jabs would be for COVID-19. This also has the benefit of creating at least 250 jobs for scientists, engineers and personnel in the allied fields.

To do that, a lot of training from the academe and DOST must be done along with the technical support and regulatory consultation, she added.

The manufacturing of vaccines needs a lot of expertise that is higher and more specialized than the formulation, filling and packaging because of the requirements of dealing with raw materials, auditing suppliers, and validation.

The Balik Scientist noted that it was timely that the establishment of the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines is already underway. It will be the country’s premier research facility that would focus on studying viruses and viral diseases and developing vaccines.

According to Science Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara, the earliest the Philippines might start producing COVID-19 vaccines is by late 2022.

The Philippine experience with procuring COVID-19 vaccines for one of the more populous nations in the planet exposed the importance of the capability to produce our own so we can be better prepared for future outbreaks or pandemics. Government has to prioritize the development of this capability by attracting people of science and qualified corporations because our country cannot remain the only in Asia that cannot produce its own vaccines.*

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