PH only country in Asia not producing vaccines – DOST Balik Scientist

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is the only country in Asia that does not produce vaccines for its own people, according to a Balik Scientist of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

“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.

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 active product ingredients will be imported from other countries if the jabs would be for COVID-19.

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

“If the [formulation, filling, and packaging] would be done, it could create at least 250 jobs for scientists, engineers, and personnel in the allied fields,” she said.

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, she added.

But if the country would become a filling facility, it would be easier to train the workforce to produce the vaccines.

The Balik Scientist noted that it was timely that the establishment of the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines is already underway.

In November last year, the DOST announced that it was allotted a P284 million funding for purchase equipment intended for the research activities of VIP.

Science Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara said that the soon-to-rise institute would be the country’s premier research facility that would focus on studying viruses and viral diseases and developing vaccines on humans, animals, and plants.

In April, Guevara said that through the private sector, the Philippines might start producing COVID vaccines by late 2022.

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