DOST unaware of COVID-19 vaccine given to Lacson, Romualdez

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 22) — Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato Dela Peña said Sunday he has no knowledge about the COVID-19 vaccine supposedly received by Senator Panfilo Lacson and House Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.

Dela Peña said he has no information about the vaccine, which Senate President Vicente Sotto III claimed was administered to Lacson and Romualdez recently.

"Hindi ko pa alam 'yun," Dela Peña said in an online press briefing. "Lalo 'yan hindi ko alam ano ang pangalan. So, mahirap aralin."

[Translation: I don't know anything about it, especially since I don't know the name of the vaccine. It would be hard to determine.]

Dela Peña said clinical trials of potential COVID-19 vaccines in the Philippines would have to be approved first by the Food and Drug Administration.

Asked if it was possible that the COVID-19 vaccines were administered to Lacson and Romualdez without the DOST's knowledge, Dela Peña said: "Ang FDA, nasa kanila ang lahat ng karapatan na mag-decide, whether ire-refer nila sa amin o hindi, nasa sa kanila yun. Pero 'yung iba kasi, dumi-diretso sa amin ng pag-refer, pag-a-apply kasi kung clinical trial, alam nilang dadaan sa amin. Pero kung ito ay for marketing purposes lang, walang dadaanang clinical trials, pwede silang dumiretso sa FDA."

[Translation: The FDA has the right to decide on whether or not they will refer the vaccines to us. However, others directly go to us when referring or applying because when it comes to a clinical trial, they know it has to go through us. But if it is only for marketing purposes and it does not need to undergo clinical trials, they can go directly to the FDA.]

Dela Peña said five international pharmaceutical companies have currently expressed intent to hold clinical trials in the country for potential COVID-19 vaccines. These are Sinovac from China, Sputnik V of the Russia-based Gamaleya Research Institute, and those from AstraZeneca, Janssen and Clover Biopharmaceuticals.

The DOST chief said candidates for COVID-19 vaccine must first be cleared by the agency's panel of vaccine experts and ethics board, as well as the FDA, before clinical trials can proceed.