Amid delays in the arrival of the COVID-19 bivalent vaccines in the country, Senator Win Gatchalian is pressing the need to boost local capacity on vaccine development through the creation of the Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines (VIP).
The Health Department explained that the delay is due to the non-extension of the declaration of a state of calamity beyond 2022.
“Sa nakita nating pinsala ng COVID-19, kailangang handa na tayo sa pang hinaharap at mahalagang magkaroon tayo ng sarili nating research and development sa larangan ng pag-aaral ng mga bakuna upang maagapan ang anumang uri ng sakit na maaaring kumitil ng buhay,” Gatchalian said.
The lawmaker made his proposal in the Virology and Vaccine Institute Act of the Philippines (VIP) of 2022 (Senate Bill No. 941), which he refiled this 19th Congress. The proposed measure seeks to establish the VIP to serve as the premier research and development institute in the field of virology, encompassing all areas in viruses and viral diseases in humans, animals, and plants.
The mandates of the VIP will include, among others, the undertaking of scientific and technological research and development (R&D) in the field of virology and the development of an information system on virology science and technology for use by both the public and private sectors.
Aside from developing diagnostic kits, vaccines, and therapeutics for humans, the VIP will also develop them for animal and plant diseases which cause significant loss for local farmers and impact animal and agronomic health and food supplies. He recalled the country’s experience with the first African swine fever outbreak in July 2019, which led to the culling of 251,450 pigs, reduced national production by 8.5%, and an estimated trade loss of about P1 billion.
Gatchalian also recalled that in July 2020, a case of the highly infectious H5N6 subtype of the influenza A virus was reported in Pampanga, which led to a poultry farm’s slaughter of nearly 39,000 chickens to curb a bird flu outbreak.
The Department of Health (DOH) Health Facilities and Services Regulatory Bureau (HFSRB) shall establish guidelines on the regulation and operation of virology-related facilities, to be assisted by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and other related government agencies.