The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has announced that the Philippines and Singapore are co-leading a regional study to look into the levels of immunity against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the communities within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
DOST Secretary Fortunato “Boy” T. de la Peña said the first multi-country regional study is one of the two COVID-19 research proposals officially endorsed during the 11th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Science, Technology and Innovation (IAMMSTI-11) and the 79th Meeting of the ASEAN Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation (COSTI-79) as part commitment to strengthen regional cooperation on science and technology. Both meetings were held virtually on June 15-17.
“The Philippines and Singapore are co-leading a regional study to assess the levels of immunity within ASEAN communities,” he said in a Facebook post.
“Through this study, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) reaffirms the Philippines’ commitment to stronger regional cooperation on science and technology in the ASEAN region to help boost its member states’ capabilities in combating COVID-19 and future pandemics.”
De la Peña said the study will assess levels of immunity at different stages, including before vaccination and the longevity of immunity conferred through vaccination.
“This is the first multi-country regional study in ASEAN on the serology (SARS-CoV-2) antibody response to vaccination,” he noted.
Under the joint initiative, the Philippines and Singapore will probe the effectiveness of seroconversion of vaccines, the DOST chief said.
He explained that seroconversion of vaccines refers to the development of specific antibodies in the blood serum as a result of a COVID-19 infection or vaccination.
“With multiple vaccines being deployed, coupled with the evolving COVID-19 variants, this study will potentially offer impactful insights for the scientific community, public health practitioners, government policymakers and industry,” De la Peña said.
He said the study will be jointly conducted by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), Singapore’s Duke-NUS Medical School, and the Diagnostics Development (DxD) Hub.
“This research partnership also taps on the networks fostered through the ASEAN Diagnostics (Dx) Initiative, expanding on the list of priority diseases and pivoting to help meet the challenges of the current pandemic,” he said.
Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam have already confirmed their participation in the regional bloc’s initiative, de la Peña said.
Joining in the study are Indonesia’s Eijkman Institute of Molecular Biology, Malaysia’s University of Malaya, Faculty of Medicine, Thailand’s King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital Bangkok and Vietnam’s Oxford University Clinical Research Unit.