MANILA — Infrastructure conglomerate Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) Chairman Manuel Pangilinan said during the company’s virtual stockholders’ meeting that they are interested in the local manufacture of vaccines against COVID-19. 

“The group, especially Metro Pacific, is interested in the local manufacture of vaccines and also the boosters that will follow the vaccine application,” Pangilinan said, noting they have met with Glovax Biotech Group but also open to other global vaccine producers.

“We’re seeing particular vaccine brands preferred by Filipinos, so we’re probably gravitating to those vaccines,” he added, noting the vaccine introduced by Glovax “was one we are not familiar with and not yet in the approved government’s list of Covid-19 vaccine.”

Earlier, Glovax Biotech said it is in talks with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Bureau of Investments and the National Development Company, the investment arm of the DTI, for the construction of a next-generation COVID-19 vaccine production facility should the Philippine government purchase 40 million doses of EuCorVac-19 and the Pentavalent vaccines.

EuCorVac-19 was developed in the United States by POP Biotechnologies, with Glovax partnering with South Korea’s Eubiologics and LG Chem, the two World Health Organization (WHO) pre-qualified vaccine manufacturers that produce vaccines used by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). 

“Glovax and Eubiologics are in the process of applying for the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA),” Glovax said, noting that the EuCorVac-19 vaccine got the approval for combined Phase I and Phase II clinical trial from the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in January 2021.

Meanwhile, Pangilinan said MPIC has already procured 800,000 doses of vaccines for the entire group with the initial delivery expected to arrive by June, including 750,000 doses from Moderna and the remaining from AstraZeneca. 

“We have offered to all our employees these vaccines. It’s a voluntary offer, it’s not compulsory for our employees… So, you have to include their spouses and their dependents, their children and of course their kasambahays because they’re all living in one habitat,” he said.

MPIC has also built quarantine facilities for employees.

2 MORE LOCAL FIRMS FOR COVID-19 VACCINE MANUFACTURE

In a report by Manila Bulletin, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Undersec. for Research and Development Rowena Cristina Guevara, who leads the Task Group on Vaccine Evaluation and Selection (TG-VES), said the number of potential COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers in the country is now eight after two local firms expressed interest to go into manufacturing of vaccines in the country.

In an online media forum on April 15, Guevara announced two local pharmaceutical companies’ plans to produce their own COVID-19 vaccines by “end of 2022 under a fill-and-finish vaccine manufacturing arrangements.”

Guevara noted that out of the six companies expressing interest in manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines locally, two companies were aggressively pushing ahead, adding one of the firm is “a long-term partner of a Chinese vaccine developer while one company has connection with a vaccine developer in Germany.”

“All the vaccines that we need are being manufactured by their prospective foreign partner, these are: rubella, polio, HIV, TB, COVID and other non-COVID-19 vaccines,” she said. 

In late March, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Sec. Ramon Lopez identified the six local firms as Greentech, Glovax Biotech, IG Biotech, New Marketlink, Lloyds Laboratories, and Unilab.

Meanwhile, the DTI would like to limit to a maximum of 21 days the processing of permits for proponents of vaccine manufacturing projects and to appoint a focal person at the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) to ensure there will be no red tape on the local production of COVID-19 vaccines.

Lopez said, “concerned government agencies are expected to sign the proposed Greenlane Joint Memorandum Circular (by the end of May), noting the Anti Red Tape Authority (ARTA) has been working with all concerned agencies to finalize the greenlane procedures.”

The DTI also suggested submitting in advance to the FDA information and documents ahead of the official assessment. 

“The proposed greenlane system is to have 21 days maximum,” Lopez said, with the proposed “Greenlane JMC applicable only to Bulk Importation, Fill and Finish Model under an Emergency Use Authorization Application.”“This model will allow an earlier start of operations, possibly before yearend or early next year,” he said, noting the government has no final commitment yet on the number of vaccines it will procure from local vaccine manufacturers as it is still being deliberated upon by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Vaccine Committee.  

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