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Philippines OK’s vaccine mix-and-match trials

By Russell Louis C. Ku

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved clinical trials for combining coronavirus vaccine brands, an official from the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) said on Friday.

The regulator approved the study on Nov. 16 and has started screening applicants, DoST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina L. Guevara told a televised news briefing.

The mix-and-match trials would need 3,000 participants including Filipinos who got vaccinated with Coronavac from China as their first dose.

The dry run started last month with results of the study to be made available by the first quarter of next year.

More than 73 million coronavirus vaccines had been given out as of Nov. 18, with 32.9 million Filipinos having been fully vaccinated against the virus and 6,457 booster shots injected, according to data from an inter-agency task force.

Meanwhile, a House lawmaker has called on the task force to do away with RT-PCR tests for interzonal land, air and sea travel because it burdens fully vaccinated travelers.

Party-list Rep. Jose J. Teves, Jr. filed a House resolution asking the government to only require a negative antigen test result for traveling Filipinos who have been fully vaccinated.

“The RT-PCR requirement imposed by several local government units is a burden to fully vaccinated travelers considering its expensive price and long processing time,” according to a copy of the resolution.

The task force said that local governments would decide on testing requirements for travelers visiting their area.

Cities such as Davao and Zamboanga lifted requirements for negative RT-PCR results for domestic tourists starting Nov. 16.

Meanwhile, the Philippines will soon admit fully vaccinated people from low-risk countries to boost its country’s tourism sector.

In a statement, the Tourism department said the task force had approved in principle the entry of fully vaccinated tourists from green list countries.

Fully vaccinated foreigners from these countries only need a negative RT-PCR test within 72 hours before departure, according to a copy of a resolution approved on Thursday.

No facility-based quarantine and additional testing will be required, but tourists should self-monitor for any symptoms until the 14th day after their arrival in the country.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Fatima T. Romulo-Puyat told reporters the guidelines would come out before the end of the month.

“This move will likewise aid in bolstering consumer confidence, which is a large contributor to our gross domestic product growth,” she said.

Meanwhile, the presidential palace said employers and private businesses could still require customers to wear face shields inside their shops.

Acting presidential spokesman Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said the relaxation of the face shield requirement “is without prejudice to employers still requiring their use for their employees or workers and customers in their respective premises.”

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