The Philippines is negotiating with 16 manufacturers of potential COVID-19 vaccines to procure supplies needed to battle Southeast Asia’s largest outbreak.

The country will join human trials of 14 vaccines under the World Health Organization’s Solidarity Trial and the global Covax facility to get priority access if they’re proven effective, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told ABS-CBN News Channel Monday.

“We are better positioning ourselves for this vaccine. Whatever is found to be safe and feasible for our country, that’s what we’re going to have,” Ms. Vergeire said. The US and Russia have also committed to allot doses for the Philippines, which has no vaccine manufacturing capacity of its own.

The Philippines is banking on a vaccine to help contain Southeast Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreak that has infected nearly 190,000 people despite imposing one of the region’s earliest and longest lockdowns. Singapore and Indonesia have already partnered up with foreign developers, while Thailand is making its own candidate vaccine.

The Department of Health is proposing to speed up distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine by waiving phase 4 clinical trials, which assesses its longer-term effects after FDA approval. The waiver is subject to conditions, including the conduct of safety and effectiveness surveillance and informed consent of recipients.

Meanwhile, the government stood pat on a deployment ban on health care workers, even as only 25 out of 1,000 returning Filipino nurses took on the chance to work in local hospitals and clinics, Ms. Vergeire said. The health agency is offering hazard pay, life insurance, housing and, transportation as it falls about 3,000 people short of the 10,500 it targeted for its emergency hiring program. — Bloomberg