Trade dep’t says 2 pharma firms in final talks to make vaccines

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

PHARMACEUTICAL FIRM Lloyd Laboratories, Inc. is in advanced talks to commence vaccine production in the Philippines, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said.

Lloyd Laboratories is one of two companies seeking to set up fill-and-finish operations, in which active ingredients are imported for local packaging, as it already has facilities that can handle such an operation.

“Bringing in equipment is their next step,” Mr. Lopez said at a Kapihan sa Manila Bay virtual event Wednesday.

Lloyd Laboratories is one of eight groups that showed interest in vaccine manufacturing. Several are in the process of signing partnerships, which pharmaceutical companies here need to strike with technology providers overseas.

Three or four groups are keen to start operations immediately, Mr. Lopez added.

The companies are planning to work on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines or other shots that would help prevent pneumococcal disease and the flu.

Licenses for local vaccine manufacturing will be processed within 20 days under guidelines issued by various government agencies. Under a “green lane” created to speed up processing, the drug regulator is required to identify staff that will assist firms looking to import active ingredients for local packaging through the entire licensing process.

Meanwhile, Mr. Lopez at the same event said the government needs base its coronavirus responses on the number of critical or severe cases instead of the total number of new cases.

“As we increase the vaccination rate, what we suggested even to the (interagency taskforce on the coronavirus) is to look at more on the data… not the cases but the severe and critical,” he said.

He said the trend of severe and critical cases, which make up around 2.6% of all active cases, should be added to the parameters considered when deciding on lockdown restrictions, which he said could lead to “granular lockdowns” or stricter restrictions only in riskier areas.

COVID-19 cases in the Philippines have again surged, reaching 12,021 new recorded infections on Wednesday.

The Health department said Monday that the country is classified as high risk from the coronavirus as the average daily infections from Aug. 1 to 7 hit 8,695, higher than the 6,498 a week earlier. — Jenina P. Ibanez

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