Coronavirus infections nearing 430,000 — DoH

THE DEPARTMENT of Health (DoH) reported 2,076 coronavirus infections on Sunday, bringing the total to 429,864.

The death toll rose by 40 to 8,373, while recoveries increased by 10,579 to 398,624.

There were 22,867 active cases, 82.9% of which were mild, 7.4% did not show symptoms, 6.1% were critical, 3.2% were severe and 0.34% were moderate.

Quezon City reported the highest number of new cases at 137, followed by Laguna at 122, Cavite at 103, Batangas at 96 and Angeles City at 79.

DoH said two duplicates and seven recovered cases found to be negative after validation were removed from the tally. Eight recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. Seven laboratories failed to submit their data on Nov. 28.

The coronavirus has sickened about 62.6 million and killed 1.5 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

About 43.2 million people have recovered, it said.

An expert panel from the Science and Technology department has approved Chinese drug maker Clover Biopharmaceuticals’ application for clinical trials of its coronavirus vaccine, the agency said on Friday.

A separate ethics review committee and the local Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must also approve the application, said Jaime Montoya, executive director of the agency’s Philippine Council for Health Research and Development.

The Clover application was the second application approved after China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

Three other drug makers have applied for clinical trials — Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca,

he said.

Mr. Montoya said the clinical trials for both companies might start by late December at the earliest. Their applications have been forwarded to the local FDA for regulatory review.

Gamaleya is still completing some documents while the panel is still reviewing responses from Janssen. AstraZeneca was the last to submit an application.

The presidential palace has said President Rodrigo R. Duterte would allow the emergency use of coronavirus vaccines, which would cut the approval process for drugs approved in countries where these were developed.

The President would issue an executive order for the emergency vaccine use, which allows local use after 21 days, shorter than the usual six months required for verification.

Mr. Duterte had also approved advanced orders for COVID-19 vaccines to ensure there is supply for the Philippines, said vaccine czar  Carlito G. Galvez, Jr.

Mr. Duterte last month said the government had funds to buy coronavirus vaccines, but it needs more so the entire population of more than 100 million could be inoculated.

He said he would look for more funds so all Filipinos could be vaccinated. The President said he was okay with vaccines developed either by Russia or China.

FDA Director-General Rolando Enrique D. Domingo earlier said drug makers don’t have to conduct clinical trials here. They just have to register for product approval by the FDA.

Moderna, Inc. had informed Science and Technology officials that it does not plan to hold clinical trials here for a coronavirus vaccine it was developing. The company claims the drug is 94.5% effective.

Pfizer, which claims its vaccine is 95% effective, also does not plan to conduct clinical trials in the Philippines.

Mr. Duterte said he had spoken with outgoing Russian Ambassador Igor A. Khovaev and was told that Russia intends to set up a pharmaceutical company in the Philippines that will make the vaccines available here.

He said soldiers and the police will be among the first ones to be vaccinated, along with poor Filipinos.

Misamis Oriental Rep. Juliette T. Uy on Friday said the Phividec Industrial Estate Authority could lead the local production of vaccines under license from original manufacturers.

The country would also need safe places where enough vaccines and supplies can be stored for future needs, she said.

Ms. Uy urged the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to “find ways to manufacture the vaccines and cold containers on a massive scale, along with the production of tens of millions of syringes and other supplies needed.”

She said the government must anticipate vaccination of migrant workers, returning overseas Filipino workers, foreign tourists, and crews of international airlines, passenger ships, cargo ships, personnel of foreign embassies and international regional headquarters, and visiting foreign troops. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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