ANOTHER three coronavirus vaccine developers have been approved by the ethics review board for clinical trial, the Department of Health (DoH) announced Monday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, Chinese firm Clover Biopharmaceuticals, and AstraZeneca’s applications for clinical trial hurdled the ethics review board.

Applicants for clinical trial in the country must secure approval from the Science and Technology department’s Vaccine Expert Panel and the ethics review board before applying with the local Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and Clover had been approved earlier by the expert panel. Sinovac has yet to be approved by the ethics board.

Ms. Vergeire said the expert panel and the ethics board are conducting “parallel” studies of the applications while the FDA is gathering initial information about the five vaccines for its documentary evaluation.

Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology also applied for clinical trials.

Meanwhile, over three million vaccine doses have been purchased by the business community, with half going to the government and the rest for private sector workers and their families.

JG Summit Holdings President and Chief Executive Officer Lance Y. Gokongwei, in a Palace briefing on Monday, said P800 million will be spent by the private sector to buy the vaccines.

“As of this date, over three million doses worth over $16 million or P800 million will be the contribution of the whole private sector and at least half of this will go to the DoH,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English

The DoH will distribute the vaccines among priority recipients identified under the mass immunization program that is targeted to start as early as March next year.

In the same briefing, Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque detailed the initial priority list for the vaccines, which will cover 24,668,126 people.

Among the first beneficiaries are 1.7 million frontline workers, including government officials, 3.7 million indigent senior citizens, another 5.6 million seniors, 12.9 million indigent population, and 525,523 uniformed personnel.

The country had 441,399 confirmed coronavirus cases with 1,574 new as of Dec. 7, the DoH reported.

The death toll rose to 8,572 with 18 additional fatalities. Recoveries rose by 80 to 408,702.

Davao City reported the highest number of new cases at 187, followed by Rizal at 96, Pampanga at 80, Quezon City at 69, and Pasig City at 59.

There were 24,125 active cases, 84.6% of which were mild, 6.4% asymptomatic, 5.8% critical, 2.9% severe, and 0.32% moderate.

The DoH said nine duplicates were removed from the total case count, seven of which were recovered. Five recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Gillian M. Cortez