By Corina Oliquino

MANILAIn a conference call with Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana on June 12, US Defense Sec. Mark Esper said the US is willing to share with its allies and partners COVID-19 vaccines once available.

 Esper confirmed that the development of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics in the US is “making very good progress,” while Lorenzana thanked the former for the medical assistance and donations of medical supplies by the US government to help the Philippines’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Esper also thanked the Department of National Defense (DND) for its support for the National Government’s decision to suspend the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which governs the presence of US soldiers conducting military exercises in the country.

Clinical trials

In a report by GMA News, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director-Gen. Eric Domingo labelled as a good move the Philippines’ participation in the global clinical trials for a COVID-19 cure, adding it will increase the country’s chance of securing a vaccine.

“Ang isa rin po kasing magandang strategy ay sumali tayo sa clinical trial pa lamang, unang una masusubukan na natin siya sa mga Pilipino kung maganda ang epekto niya, and at the same time siyempre kung participant tayo sa pag-developng isang bakuna, ‘yung kumpanya siyempre mas maganda rin ang chance na uunahin tayo,” Domingo in an interview with GMA News TV.

Domingo said the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed there are now 70 companies and universities worldwide currently conducting their research for a COVID-19 vaccine with 10 about to start their clinical trials.

Domingo also confirmed that the Philippines is planning to join WHO’s Solidarity Trial while the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is coordinating with companies and universities developing a vaccine in China for clinical trials, adding President Rodrigo Duterte is in discussion with other countries regarding the Philippines’ access to vaccines once they are available.

Previously, Malacañang welcomed news of clinical trials with the President expressing optimism over the news.

“We expect involvement in the vaccine clinical trials by the last quarter of 2020 with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) taking a lead role,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.

“The President wants to save the life of each and every Filipino and thus, places great interest to these clinical trials,” Roque said.

“IATF Resolution No. 39 mentions the approval of the recommendations of the DOST on the participation of the Philippines in the clinical trials for Covid-19 vaccines,” he added.

The Palace tasked the DOST to provide “collaborating organizations with the Department of Health, World Health Organization and Food and Drug Administration Philippines, guidelines on the clinical trials,” as well as identifying sites, local institutions and the Filipino researchers who will be involved in the trials, assisting local participating institutions in their proposals and budgets, obtaining Ethics Board approvals and formalizing the agreements.

As of June 15, the Philippines has logged 348 fresh COVID-19 cases and 142 late bringing the total to 26,420 infections with 298 recoveries and 10 deaths.

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