MANILA -- The Philippines is set to launch next month a study on mixing China's Sinovac doses with other COVID-19 jabs due to an "unpredictable" supply of vaccines.
The government-funded study will run from June 2021 to November 2022, according to the Department of Science and Technology or DOST, which described the research as a "mix-and-match" of available COVID vaccines in the Philippines.
"Combinations of Sinovac vaccine with other vaccine brand will be the main aim of the study due to it being the most stable vaccine supply in the country," according to a statement posted on the official Facebook page of DOST Secretary Fortunato Dela Pena. "In a nutshell, it means two different vaccines for a single person's two doses," it also said.
Apart from Sinovac, the Philippines has approved six other COVID jabs for emergency use -- those developed by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson of the U.S., AstraZeneca of the U.K, Bharat Biotech of India and Gamaleya Institute of Russia.
The Philippines has received roughly 8.3 million doses from different suppliers and U.N.-backed COVAX facility -- 5.5 million from Sinovac; 2.5 million from AstraZeneca; 193,000 from Pfizer and 30,000 from Gamaleya. It has administered a little over 4 million doses.
The Philippines has the second-worst outbreak in Southeast Asia after Indonesia. It is targeting to inoculate over half of its around 110 million population this year, but it is also grappling with vaccine hesitancy and brand bias among the public.
Last week, local government units were ordered to stop revealing vaccine brands in advance to "overcome brand preference" among Filipinos. The policy was formed after locals -- including those without appointments -- flocked to vaccination centers that were offering Pfizer doses.
The government-backed research titled "A study evaluating the safety and immunogenicity of mixing different COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine platforms in Filipino adults" will be led by Dr. Michelle De Vera of the Philippine Society for Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
The department said it would seek the approval of the Food and Drug Administration and the Philippine Health Research Ethics Board before commencing the study, which will take place in eight areas in the country. The statement did not specify how many people will participate in the study.
"The relevant data generated may provide basis for the guidelines/policies of the Department of Health on the vaccination rollout especially during situations of limited vaccine supplies or vaccine shortage," the statement said.