Achieving vaccine self-reliance should be pandemic’s legacy — PCOO

24-Apr-2021 Intellasia | PhilStar | 3:38 PM Print This Post

Achieving vaccine self-reliance should be the legacy of the pandemic, the chief of the government’s lead communication arm said, as the global supply of COVID-19 shots remains tight because of high demand.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said developing vaccines is not new to Filipinos, noting that the Philippines donated shots to China in 1939. The University of the Philippines (UP) College of Public Health, then known as the UP Institute of Hygiene, produced the vaccines, according to the website of the state-run university’s Manila campus.

“There is a saying attributed to former British prime minister Winston Churchill, ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste.’ We are facing a crisis of vaccine shortage. But the government is continuously securing vaccines and the ones being delivered came from different sources. Some were purchased, others were donated,” Andanar said during his weekly program “Cabinet Report: The New Normal.”

“Despite the crisis we are facing, perhaps it’s time for us to think: ‘Can we be more self-reliant as a person, as a community, as a country? Maybe that should be one of the legacies of the pandemic, that after this, Filipinos should be more reliant because we can do it,” he added.

Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña also expressed optimism that the Philippines can achieve vaccine self-reliance.

“We have a high level of confidence that we can do it. We have proven before that we can do it… We just need political will,” Dela Peña said.

“Second, we have industries leading the effort. That means the technology came from abroad but we can introduce value innovations, adding both in the technology and in the products. We are the highest exporters of semiconductors and electronic products… It is not that different from the field of medical products like pharmaceuticals,” he added.

Dela Peña said the government’s vaccine self-reliance roadmap involves negotiations with the private sector for local vaccine manufacturing; raising the maturity level of the Food and Drug Administration to enable it to conduct vaccine tests and certifications; the setting up of a Virology Science and Technology Institute, which will require the approval of Congress; and the revitalization of the science department’s pharmaceutical development center.

Earlier this month, Science Undersecretary Rowena Guevara said six local firms are in talks with the government for possible vaccine manufacturing. Two of the six companies may produce their vaccines by the end of 2022, she added.

Dela Peña said the budget department has been supportive of human resource development, noting that existing scholarships in science and technology are now covering more fields. He said beneficiaries of science department scholarships rose from about 5,000 in 2016 to about 9,000 to 10,000 last year. Scholars in the graduate level, meanwhile, increased from about 100 per year in 2016 to about 400, dela Peña added.

“And this year, we expect that we will be giving something like 14,000 new slots for the bachelor’s degree. Of course that is our goal of really inclusive development, of building up or capability,” the science chief said.

Dela Peña said the government is also implementing the Balik Scientist Act, which offers additional benefits to Filipino scientists abroad to encourage them to return to the country and share their expertise.


Category: Philippines

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