While world leaders continue to debate whether there should be a suspension of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, Senator Win Gatchalian urged the government to be one step ahead – explore the possibility of the country having the capacity to produce its own vaccine. He said concerned government agencies such as the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should look into ways in which potential local manufacturers and foreign investors could be incentivized for investing into local manufacturing.
The Vice Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs said the government should help provide the necessary regulatory support to COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers by providing assistance in meeting the requirements such as authorization or product registration with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“Access to these vaccines has been most challenging to countries like ours. But in the event that patent rights will be waived by member-countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO), we must seize the opportunity and start laying the groundwork as early as now so we can produce our own COVID-19 vaccines,” Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian also cited the need to pursue vaccine development facilities that will support research projects, facilitate training of scientists and physicians, and could work in partnership with pharmaceutical companies for the possibility of locally-manufactured vaccines. He likewise underscored the needed infrastructure for storage and logistics capability for purposes of distribution as vaccines will be rendered useless if not stored properly.
Representatives of South Africa and India have asked the WTO in October last year to allow its member-countries to waive IP rights, including patents, related to COVID-19 vaccines and other technologies for the duration of the pandemic. The proposal which has gained support in the developing world is facing resistance from countries with major pharmaceutical industries.
“While we continue to be import-dependent for now for our COVID-19 vaccine supply to meet the goal of herd immunity, we should not be deterred from being self-sufficient when it comes to vaccine production,” Gatchalian said.
Recent news reports showed that there are at least six local companies that are already in talks with government agencies for the establishment of vaccine manufacturing facilities.
“Win-win solution kapag makagawa tayo ng bakuna kontra COVID-19. Kapakanan ng lahat ang nakasalalay dito. Bukod sa kasiguruhan sa bakuna, makakapagbigay pa ito ng mga bagong trabaho,” he said.