PHILIPPINE companies are exploring how to develop the country’s capacity to produce various types of vaccines, with some producers possibly participating in the license-manufacturing of inoculations for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by around 2024, the Board of Investments (BoI) said.

BoI Executive Director Ma. Corazon H. Dichosa said last week that the private sector is studying potential vaccine technology providers, facility costs, and domestic market demand for “fill-and-finish” vaccine production, in which the active ingredients are imported for local packaging.

Some firms may start working immediately on COVID-19 vaccines to address domestic demand while others may start with regular flu vaccines, she said in an online news conference Thursday.

Potential vaccine technology sources include Russia, South Korea, China, and India, along with US universities conducting vaccine research.

The government is in talks with six companies for domestic vaccine manufacturing, Trade Secretary and BoI Chairman Ramon M. Lopez said last week.

Fill-and-finish facilities could be up in two or three years, Ms. Dichosa said, as the companies obtain licenses to manufacture. Plant development could start by 2022 or 2023, she said.

“We have timetables. In fact, gusto na talaga namin siya i-fast track. But ‘yung mga tataya ng pera nila kasi syempre they also wanted to ensure na di sila malulugi… there are still some studies being done by private sector (We want to fast-track approvals, but the companies are studying feasibility to ensure they don’t lose their investment),” she said.

BoI Managing Head Ceferino S. Rodolfo said domestically-manufactured vaccines could be available by the “tail end” of the COVID-19 inoculation effort, or should the need emerge for additional jabs.

Ang critical role ng government dito (The government’s role here) is to ensure that even after the threat subsides… we’ll (still have) this vaccine capability,” he said.

The Philippines imports its vaccines, and has inoculated over 508,000 people so far. — Jenina P. Ibañez