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MANILA, May 26 (Mabuhay) — At least eight firms are eyeing local vaccine manufacturing in the country, five of which will be for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara said Tuesday.

“Five are for Covid-19; two for non-Covid but could possibly be for Covid-19 vaccines later, and one (firm) which is not yet sure (of the kind of vaccine to produce),” Guevara said.

One of the eight companies is targeting to start a “fill and finish” facility within the year, she said.

The “fill and finish” vaccine manufacturing starts with a bioreactor to produce the antigen. At the end of the manufacturing process is the filling up of vials, injection, ampules or container for the vaccine, then it is labeled and packaged for transport.

“The National Task Group on Vaccine Evaluation and Selection has been coordinating with prospective vaccine manufacturers in the Philippines through connecting local pharmaceutical companies to foreign vaccine developers that expressed interest in local vaccine manufacturing,” Guevara said in an online forum.

The Task Group, she said, also provides guidance to local pharmaceutical firms on the possible incentives available to them and the regulatory requirements.

Further, the Task Group leads the review and update of relevant policies and programs “to make the policy environment more favorable for vaccine manufacturing”, she added.

Without mentioning the companies’ names, Guevara described the following vaccine developers during the online forum:

Company A is a distributor of a South Korean company and is currently in talks with two companies to form a venture. Company B, she said, has extensive facilities in Asia. Vaccines against polio, rubella, tuberculosis, HIV, Covid-19, are being manufactured by their prospective foreign partner.

Company C considers starting a local vaccine manufacturing venture with a fill and finish facility. Company D, on the other hand, expressed willingness to partner with the government and is currently in discussion with the Department of Trade and Industry – Board of Investment (DTI-BOI) and the National Development Company (NDC).

Guevara said Company E is a long-term partner of a Chinese vaccine producer. The DTI-BOI and the NDC are talking to company E to fast-track its plans.

Company F is looking for a possible partner — possibly a US company, while Company G is currently speaking with a Taiwanese vaccine developer for possible partnership on local manufacturing.

“Company H has expressed interest to participate in the WHO initiative for the establishment of a Covid-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub to scale up global manufacturing,” Guevara said. (MNS)