Philippines hopeful of vaccine manufacturing investments by 2022

The Philippines is hoping to attract investments for domestic vaccine manufacturing. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

INVESTMENTS for domestic vaccine manufacturing could start coming into the Philippines by next year, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said on Thursday.

Several firms are in talks with technology providers to locally produce coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines.

“Hopefully, within this year or next year ay meron nang mga actual investments that will come in, once ma-settle din ang kanilang mga concern at mga requirements,” Mr. Lopez said at a briefing on Thursday.

The Board of Investments (BoI) last month said that the private sector is studying potential vaccine technology providers, facility costs, and domestic market demand for vaccines.

Science and Technology Undersecretary Rowena Cristina L. Guevara said two of the six companies in “advanced talks” with the government for vaccine manufacturing are “aggressive” in their plans.

“Based on what they have told us, parang kakayanin nilang mag-produce ng vaccines by late 2022 (they will try to produce vaccines by late 2022),” Ms. Guevara told an online news briefing.

Ms. Guevara said the two companies, which are targeting to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines, are eyeing a fill-and-finish facility that can be finished in less than two years.

Fill-and-finish facilities, in which the active ingredients are imported for local packaging, could be up in two or three years, BoI Executive Director Ma. Corazon H. Dichosa said. Companies will still need to obtain licenses to manufacture.

Initial work on the manufacturing facilities could start by 2022 or 2023, she said.

Some firms may start working immediately on COVID-19 vaccines to address domestic demand while others may start with regular flu vaccines.

Ms. Guevara said some of the local companies are planning to start manufacturing vaccines that are already “well established” such as measles and rubella, before making COVID-19 vaccines when clinical trials are done.

While she declined to name the companies, Ms. Guevara said one is a distributor of a South Korean company and is currently in talks with two companies to form a venture that includes the National Development Co. (NDC).

Another company has extensive facilities in Asia with a foreign partner that is manufacturing vaccines, while a third company is eyeing a fill-and-finish facility.

The fourth company is already in talks with the BoI and NDC, and is connected with a vaccine developer in Germany, while a fifth firm is a partner of a Chinese vaccine producer. A sixth company is looking to team up with a US company, and has already submitted a pre-feasibility study for plans for a fill-and-finish facility and later on, COVID-19 vaccines.

Mr. Lopez said that the government will help facilitate these firms’ entry into Philippine manufacturing.

Tutulungan din natin sila sa mga requirement sa FDA (Food and Drug Authority),” he said.

The BoI has said that such local manufacturing could provide supplies for the latter stages of the population’s inoculation against COVID-19, or for potential additional jabs.

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) has also said that an Israeli-Filipino investment could produce local COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing, but the investment promotion agency has not yet shared details. — Jenina P. Ibanez and Vann Marlo M. Villegas