MANILA, Philippines — Russia has proposed to manufacture its vaccine for the new coronavirus in the Philippines, a move seen as opening a Southeast Asian hub for the production of its drug for COVID-19.
The plan is part of a bilateral deal proposed by Russia to the Philippines, which includes joint clinical trials and immediate provision of vaccine supply after the third and final phase and regulatory approval.
“As far as I know, Russia is the only country in the world which offers to jointly produce its vaccine here in the Philippines,” Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev said in a roundtable with the Philippine Russian Business Assembly on Wednesday.
“It means that we are ready to share our technology. Why? Because we don’t just want to come to your country, sell our vaccine, and go,” Khovaev said.
About 40 countries, including the Philippines, have expressed willingness to cooperate with Russia in fighting COVID-19, the severe respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.
Russian Direct Investment Fund, the state-run institution responsible for distribution and production of Sputnik V, the Russian vaccine for COVID-19, has so far signed up Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Brazil for joint clinical trials, Khovaev said.
He said Brazil had also signed an agreement with Russia for joint local production of the vaccine.
“It’s not just a simply trading deal. What we want is that we want to build a long-term partnership and cooperation which will be beneficial for many generations to come. I think it’s the best way to build a robust reliable way to build a new bridge between our two nations,” Khovaev said.
“I believe that this cooperation will allow your country to become a hub of vaccine in the region,” he added.
Russia, he said, is ready for the final Phase 3 clinical trials of Sputnik V in the Philippines.
The Department of Science and Technology is evaluating the documents submitted by Russia about the vaccine, he said.
“If somebody has doubt on the effectiveness of the Russian vaccine, the best way to get rid of these doubts is to conduct joint clinical trials and we are ready,” Khovaev said.
The Philippines is also taking part in the World Health Organization (WHO) Solidarity Trials of candidate vaccines for COVID-19.
The government has identified eight areas in Metro Manila, Calabarzon and Cebu as possible sites for the trials.
Science Secretary Fortunato de la Peña on Thursday said six of the areas were in Metro Manila.
“We are choosing areas with a high incidence of COVID-19. Usually it will require five to 10 barangays for a trial … It is important that we test the efficacy of the vaccine in areas with high numbers of cases,” De la Peña said.
Metro Manila is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines, accounting for more than 80 percent of new infections.
On Thursday, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 3,821 additional infections, bringing the national tally to 248,947 cases.
Of the new cases identified by 105 of 117 accredited laboratories, 2,079 were from Metro Manila and the rest were from Rizal (286), Cavite (174), Laguna (168) and Bulacan (142).
The DOH reported that 563 more patients had recovered, raising the total number of COVID-19 survivors to 186,058. But the death toll increased to 4,066 with the deaths of 80 more patients.
That left the country with 58,823 active cases, of which 88.3 percent were mild, 8.8 percent asymptomatic, 1.2 percent severe, and 1.7 critical.