MANILA, Philippines (The Adobo Chronicles) – In the Philippines, history is about to repeat itself.
In his latest televised address to the Filipinos, President Rodrigo Duterte said a vaccine for Covid-19 is just “around the corner.”
But first, some history:
In the spring of 2016, Dengvaxia had a high-profile launch in the Philippines, as the country became the first in the world to access the live recombinant tetravalent vaccine. The Department of Health spent $67 Million on Dengvaxia and kicked off a mass immunization program with the aim of vaccinating a million students by the end of the year. The immunization program was launched even before completion of the required Phase 3 of the clinical trials.
(Almost all newly-approved drugs would also usually go through a Phase 4 after it is made available in the market to further study their safety and efficacy in the population at large.)
It turns out the Philippines may have jumped the gun on the vaccine after numerous reports of children dying as a result of the immunization. Dengvaxia’s manufacturer, Sanofi, also issued a rejoinder later, saying that their vaccine poses some risk to those who have never had a history of Dengue.
Fast forward to 2020.
The availability of a vaccine has become the Duterte administration’s main mantra in its policies and strategies to curb the spread of the novel coronovirus among the Filipino population. So, one can understand why Duterte and his brilliant Secretary of Health Francisco Duque are more than ready to jump the gun on the first available Covid-19 vaccine from candidate developers in China and elsewhere.
So, is the Philippines poised to repeat history? Maybe, with some difference.
In 2016, the “guinea pigs” for Dengvaxia were school children. In 2020, Duterte has prioritized the following for the government’s Covid-19 vaccine :
(In no particular order)
- Poorest of the poor
- Middle Class
- Members of the New People’s Army
No mention if Duque will be getting the first dose of the new Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available.