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‘Country needs anti-viral arsenal amid COVID-19 rise’

The Philippine Star
âCountry needs anti-viral arsenal amid COVID-19 riseâ
Presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion and Quezon City's Joy Belmonte, who is renewing her term as mayor, at the "3M on Wheels" entrepreneurship mentoring event at SM City North EDSA on Saturday, June 25, 2022.
Go Negosyo / Handou

MANILA, Philippines —  With vaccinations proceeding slowly, Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion has stressed the need for the country to stock up on antiviral medicines as part of the efforts to live with the virus.

“Antivirals are a way forward, considering how vaccinations are going right now and how we have seen cases come and go. We need to bring in antiviral medicines to build up our defenses against COVID,” Concepcion said in a statement yesterday.

He said there are currently two antiviral medicines, Molnupiravir and Paxlovid, available through prescription in the country.

Concepcion said supply of these antivirals has been unsteady, especially with the number of COVID cases rising in recent weeks.

Based on the latest COVID-19 bulletin of the Department of Health (DOH), there were 28,008 new cases logged from Aug. 8 to 14.

The Go Negosyo founder said the same planning needs to be done with the bivalent vaccines, which can target both the original strain of the COVID virus and the highly contagious Omicron variant.

“These new formulations will need an EUA (emergency use authorization) if the pharma companies do not obtain their Certificates of Product Registration by the time the State of Public Health Emergency expires,” Concepcion said.

The EUA is a mechanism that allows the use of medical countermeasures which have yet to receive government approval.

In this case, Concepcion gave assurance that the private sector is prepared to step in and enter into another tripartite agreement as it did in 2020 with the “A Dose of Hope” project.

The agreement enabled the Philippines to overcome regulatory roadblocks when COVID vaccines were yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.?

Concepcion, however, warned that the private sector needed to be assured that this time around, there will be clear parameters on the use of the vaccines.

He suggested that the Philippines should follow the lead of the countries of reference for the vaccines’ use.

“The important thing is that the inventory must be there when we need it, and we must be already laying the groundwork now,” Concepcion said. He said antivirals and bivalent vaccines should be part of the plan if the country is to successfully live with COVID.

“The first defense is still vaccination, especially the boosters, and this has to become an ongoing activity,” Concepcion said. The second defense is the continued wearing of face masks.

He said Filipinos remain quite compliant with the face mask rule and that surveys have shown that they would continue to wear face masks even after the pandemic is declared over.

“Third is we need to have antivirals available. Antivirals work if you take them early enough in the illness, and if we prevent people from getting severe illness and being hospitalized or dying, we can learn to manage COVID even as cases go up,” Concepcion said.

Meanwhile, the DOH will push amendments to the COVID-19 Vaccination Law in case the government refuses to extend the validity of the declaration of a state of calamity due to the pandemic.?DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said they recommended to President Marcos amendments to Republic Act (RA) 11525 in case the state of calamity is lifted or expires on Sept. 12.

Vergeire said if the state of calamity would not be extended, the DOH is ready to talk to the legislative branch for amendments to RA 11525. She said there is a need to ensure the availability of COVID-19 vaccines under EUA despite the lifting of the state of calamity.

“This is especially since only Janssen/Johnson & Johnson applied for a Certificate of Product Registration (CPR) with the Food and Drug Administration. The EUA of the COVID-19 vaccines must remain in effect,” she said.

The state of calamity due to the COVID pandemic will end on Sept. 12. Non-extension will invalidate the EUAs issued to COVID-19 vaccines.?With the issuance of the EUAs, the Philippines was able to administer anti-COVID vaccines to 72.1 million people.?

The DOH said there are 17 million Filipinos who received their first booster shots and 1.8 million more from priority list received their second booster shots.?Data showed almost 6.8 million senior citizens are fully inoculated against COVID. – Catherine Talavera, Rhodina Villanueva

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