Roque defends Sinovac vaccine deal

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MALACAÑANG defended a government deal with the biopharmaceutical firm that manufactures the China-made Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine.

In a radio interview, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque slammed critics, adding that they knew nothing of the administration’s decision to secure 25 million doses of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines, which the government is buying at a price six times more expensive than Indonesia which bought it at P 652 per dose.

More than its price, critics expressed doubt on its efficacy which stood way below what other cheaper brands has to offer.

Roque described the critics as ignorant as he insisted that the Sinovac vaccine is not the most expensive brand.

“Iyong mga kritiko ng gobyerno talaga, tira ng tira wala namang mga alam,” he said. “Nasa gitna po ang presyo ng Sinovac, hindi po siya ang pinakamahal, mayroon pang dalawang brand na mas mahal kaysa po sa Sinovac.”

Roque declined to disclose the prices, saying these were covered by the confidentiality agreement. He, however, maintained that the Philippines secured the doses at a wallet-friendly price.

“Iyan po ang presyong nakuha natin sa PRC [People’s Republic of China], kasi alam ninyo mga komunista, wala naman silang market price eh. Puwede silang mag-decide kung ikaw ay kaibigan na ibaba ang presyo at iyan po ang ginawa nila,” he said.

Last December, Senate finance committee chairperson Sonny Angara bared a list of available vaccines worldwide and showed Sinovac’s price at P3,629.5 for two doses.

This is more expensive compared to Pfizer-BioNTech (P2,379); Gamaleya (P1,220); COVAX Facility (P854); AstraZeneca (P610); and Novavax (P366). The cost of two doses of Moderna vaccine range from P3,904 to P4,504.

However, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said on Wednesday that the market prices quoted in the media are much higher than the COVAX prices that the Philippines had been using in negotiating with vaccine manufacturers.

Roque also explained why the vaccine known as CoronaVac appeared to be more expensive than other brands.

“I-explain ko lang po kung bakit po mahal ang Sinovac, kasi ito po ay inactivated virus. Ibig sabihin totoong virus siya na kumbaga, pinatay o pinahina. So bago pa magawa iyan, dapat iko-culture mo muna iyong virus, so matagal iyong proseso, natural iyong proseso,” he said.

“Kaya nga po believe it or not mabuti na lang at maganda ang ating pagkakaibigan sa Tsina dahil iyong nakuha nating volume na 25 million mahirap pong makuha iyan dahil nga matagal iyong proseso kapag natural na ginagawa ang isang bakuna.”

Some lawmakers have called on the government to reconsider the purchase of Sinovac vaccine doses because it was allegedly more costly and less effective.

At the Senate hearing on the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program on Friday, Senator Panfilo Lacson assured Galvez that there is no politics behind the inquiry.

Lacson was among the senators who have previously questioned the alleged preference of the government for the Sinovac vaccine.

An initial 50,000 doses of CoronaVac will be shipped to the Philippines in February. The number will then substantially increase until the delivery of 25 million doses is completed by December. 

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