JANSSEN Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson will start clinical trials of its coronavirus vaccine in the Philippines this week, according to the Department of Science and Technology (DoST).

“It looks like Janssen will be first and it will start within this week,” DoST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña told a televised news briefing in mixed English and Filipino on Thursday.

The local Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Janssen’s clinical trial application in December.

A clinical trial seeks to strengthen drugmakers’ data-gathering on the efficacy of their vaccines and is considered as the final step for mass rollout.

Mr. de la Peña said the clinical trials for vaccines developed by Chinese drug makers Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and Clover Biopharmaceuticals would start either this month or in March.

The DoST earlier said the clinical trials of Janssen vaccines would be held in Makati City, Laguna, Iloilo City and Bacolod City.

Clover will hold its clinical trials in Quezon City, Makati, Manila, Taguig, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa, Calamba, Laguna and Dasmariñas in Cavite province, it said. Sinovac will hold trials in Quezon City, Marikina, Pasay and Laguna.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 1,590 cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 531,699. The death toll rose by 55 to 10,997, while recoveries climbed by 249 to 487,927, it said in a bulletin.

There were 32,775 active cases, 88.9% of which were mild, 5.9% did not show symptoms, 2.4% were critical, 2.3% were severe and 0.53% were moderate.

DoH said nine duplicates had been removed from the tally, while 41 recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. Two laboratories failed to submit their data on Feb. 3.

About 7.5 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of Feb. 2, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened about 104.9 million and killed about 2.3 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

About 76.7 million people have recovered, it said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it would consider a plan for the Philippines to join a global push to suspend intellectual property rules to ensure access to coronavirus vaccines.

The proposal seeks to waive provisions on copyright, patents and the protection of undisclosed information under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.

“I’ll think about it but right now, I will not instinctively join,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. told a Senate hearing on Thursday.

He said the agency would first study whether drug makers or governments were hindering access to vaccines.

“Are governments compelling the manufacturers under their jurisdiction to reserve the vast output of their manufacturing capacity for their own population?” He asked. Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Charmaine A. Tadalan