THE RECRUITMENT of patients for clinical trials of the Japanese anti-flu drug Avigan against the coronavirus has started, the Department of Health (DoH) said on Thursday.

One hundred patients will be recruited from the Philippine General Hospital, Sta. Ana Hospital, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Quirino Memorial and Medical Center, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told an online news briefing.

The hospitals have had a hard time trying to enlist patients for the vaccine made by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co., Ltd. since trials are also happening for other drugs, she said. Health officials met with hospital representatives on Friday to discuss the enlistment.

“So we are still pursuing the recruitment,” Ms. Vergeire said. “We will ask help from our medical directors at these hospitals so we can fast-track the trials,” she said in Filipino.

The Health department reported 1,664 coronavirus infections on Thursday, bringing the total to 363,888.

The death toll rose by 38 to 6,783, while recoveries increased by 843 to 312,333, it said in a bulletin.

There were 44,772 active cases, 83.6% of which were mild, 11.2% did not show symptoms, 1.9% were severe and 3.3% were critical.

Cavite reported the highest number of new cases with 81, followed by Malabon City and Davao City with 76 each, Iloilo City with 75 and Quezon City with 69.

Of the new deaths, 11 came from Metro Manila, eight from the Calabarzon region, seven from Davao and six from Western Visayas, the agency said.

Central Visayas reported three new deaths, while Soccsksargen reported two and Cagayan Valley reported one death. More than 4.2 million people have been tested for the coronavirus, DoH said.

The coronavirus has sickened 41.5 million and killed about 1.1 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

About 31 million people have recovered from the virus, it said.

It added that active cases stood at 9.5 million, 1% of which or 74,213 were either serious or critical.

The United States had the most infections at more than 8.6 million, followed by India with 7.7 million and Brazil with 5.3 million. The US also had the most deaths at 227,409, Brazil had 155,459 and India had 116,681.

DoH on Monday said it was P10.5 billion short of funds for coronavirus vaccines to cover a fifth of the Philippines’ more than 100 million population.

The agency needs more than P12 billion to inoculate priority groups including health workers and the poor, Ms. Vergeire said. It only has allotted P2.5 billion for vaccines in its P204-billion budget for next year. The cost considered two doses for each person, she said.

The Philippines has funds to buy coronavirus vaccines but it needs more so the entire population of more than 100 million could be inoculated, President Rodrigo R. Duterte said last week. He said he would look for more funds so all Filipinos could be vaccinated, adding that he was okay with vaccines developed either by Russia or China.

Marikina Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo at the weekend said vaccinating 20 million Filipinos would cost almost P13 billion. She added that the budget was only enough to cover 3.9 million Filipinos at a testing price of P641 each.

Some lawmakers have said intelligence funds of the Executive branch should be channelled to the health sector. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas