President Rodrigo Duterte put a P50-million reward like a carrot on a stick to lure in Filipino scientists to develop or discover a vaccine for COVID-19.

However, this approach wouldn’t work due to the complex and costly process albeit the present degree of cooperation before COVID-19 became a pandemic.

“While President Duterte’s heart may be in the right place, even a reward of P50 million will not push the vaccine to be developed even faster,” said Teodoro Padilla, executive director of the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP).

According to infectious diseases specialist and member of Taiwan’s pandemic response task force Dr. Mei-Shang Ho, it will take about 12 to 18 months before a vaccine for COVID-19 could be discovered, a “very optimistic timeline assuming everything goes well.”

According to PHAP president Dr. Beaver Tamesis, developing a single vaccine typically costs about $1 billion to $2 billion and takes several years.

“Everybody’s really working together to try to compress these timelines,” he said on ANC’s “Matters of Fact” podcast. “I wish it were that simple, I really wish it were. Unfortunately, it’s a very complicated process.”

To be specific, vaccine development consists of the exploratory and pre-clinical phases, clinical development, regulatory, review and approval, manufacturing, and quality control.

As of this writing, the World Health Organization (WHO) has listed six candidate vaccines for clinical evaluation while 77 others are undergoing the preclinical phase.

Tamesis said many Filipino scientists are capable of developing vaccines, but the availability of research laboratories would be a problem.

“(For) a vaccine, you actually have to grow (the virus or bacteria) in the laboratory and you’re not even sure that you’ll actually get a yield. It’s not like you’re just making a cookie cutter-type product. You actually have to grow the damn thing,” Tamesis added.

In the light of this pandemic, public officials have been calling out to the government to support local scientists and prioritize its government budget to fund more on research and development.


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