Leachon to Palace: Address vaccine concerns instead of resorting to personal attacks
This undated photo shows health reform advocate Tony Leachon.
Tony Leachon, Facebook

Leachon to Palace: Address vaccine concerns instead of resorting to personal attacks

(Philstar.com) - December 15, 2020 - 1:22pm

MANILA, Philippines — A former adviser to the National Task Force Against COVID-19 on Tuesday said the government should allay concerns over its seeming preference for Chinese vaccines instead of attacking the character of its critics.

Dr. Tony Leachon, a health reform advocate, said this after he once again became the subject of Malacañang's ire for questioning the government's prioritization of COVID-19 vaccines which he said lacked safety and efficacy data — naming Chinese company Sinovac Biotech in specific.

"I was just asking a fair scientific question in order to gain the confidence of the people in terms of their acceptance of vaccination," Leachon told ANC's Matters of Fact on Tuesday, adding that it is his role as a health advocate to "tell the truth regarding certain medical aspects of the [COVID-19] response."

During a virtual briefing on Monday, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly cussed out Leachon during pre-recorded televised meetings and accused him of angling for a position in his government. According to Roque, such remarks were previously edited out.

"Next time the president curses at you, I will insist, it will be shown to the people," Roque threatened Leachon partially in Filipino.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., also NTF chief implementer, echoed Roque's criticism, adding that Leachon was hard to work with.

"If ever those statements by Secretary Harry Roque [are] true, then we just have to accept it because the questions basically, would really, beg some explanation in terms of the efficacy and safety data considering that the Chinese vaccine [has] not received any Emergency Use Authorization or not even [Food and Drug Administration] approval to warrant [the] ordering of that particular volume of stock that will start in March," Leachon said in response on Tuesday.

"So this is the question we need to understand rather than using ad hominem attacks that would be unfair to my personality," he added.

Leachon also vehemently denied that he was seeking a government post.

"I'm not going to be a public official in the future. I'm doing this without expecting anything in return."

'Unusual speed' of acquisition of Sinovac vaccine

Galvez on Monday said the government aims to finalize negotiations with Sinovac Biotech this week to acquire 25 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine for delivery by March.

INTERAKSYON: Philippines targets deal for 25 million doses of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine

Leachon flagged the "unusual speed" of acquisition for this particular vaccine, given that pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have already published the results of their Phase 3 trials in medical journals while Sinovac has not. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was green lighted for emergency use by the United Kingdom early in December, and has subsequently been approved in several other countries including the US, while Moderna's vaccine is expected to receive emergency use authorization from the US FDA as early as this week.

"We don't have yet the regulatory documents regarding Sinovac, and if we're going to order huge volume of stocks, then it should be facilitated approval even by an international regulatory agency and extremely expedited approval in the Philippines by January to get the needed stocks by March," he said. — Bella Perez-Rubio

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