Govât hit over preference for Sinovacâs âpasang-awaâ vaccine
Undated photo shows coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

Gov’t hit over preference for Sinovac’s ‘pasang-awa’ vaccine

Xave Gregorio ( - December 25, 2020 - 1:10pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 3:09 p.m.) — Some opposition lawmakers are questioning the government’s continued preference for Sinovac Biotech’s coronavirus vaccine, even after late-stage clinical trials in Brazil showed that its efficacy rate only stands at 50%.

The World Health Organization set a minimum efficacy rate of 50% for vaccines to be used, but its preferred efficacy rate is at least 70%.

Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri said Friday it is "totally unacceptable" and a "total waste of our funds and resources" for the government to be procuring a vaccine with only a 50% efficacy rate.

“Why settle for this 'pasang-awa' kind of vaccine when we can get more efficient ones at a lower price?” Rep. Ferdinand Gaite (Bayan Muna party-list) said Friday.

Senate finance committee chair Sonny Angara previously presented prices of seven coronavirus vaccines during a Senate hearing, which showed that Sinovac’s inoculation is the second-most expensive shot at P3,629.50 for two doses following Moderna Biotech’s jab which costs up to P4,504 for two doses. 

American drugmaker Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine is the third most expensive, coming at P2,379 for two doses.

Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna’s inoculations, which have been approved for emergency use in the United States, boast efficacy rates above 90%, while the efficacy rate of Sinovac’s vaccine is still shrouded with doubts as experts point out a lack of transparency in the release of data on the shot.

“The Duterte administration’s continued preference for China-made Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines must be thoroughly questioned,” Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela party-list) said. “Why does it seem that China has given Christmas gifts which is why the government is bent on this expensive yet only half-as-effective vaccine?”

“We hope that 'kickvac' allegations are not true and we must see the whole COVID-19 vaccination plan of the [Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases],” Gaite said.

‘Tolerating mediocrity’

Tony Leachon, a former adviser to the task force that implements the country’s policies on COVID-19, hit the government for “tolerating mediocrity” in preferring Sinovac’s jab.

“If Pfizer and Moderna boast of 95% efficacy rate and AstraZeneca has 70%, why would Philippines settle for Sinovac 50% efficacy rate and much more expensive than Pfizer and Astra[Zeneca]?” Leachon said.

“If other countries would like to have world class vaccines with 95% efficacy rate, why can't we? If we allow it, then we set up ourselves to have mediocre immune response,” he added.

The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, an agency under the Department of Science and Technology tasked to evaluate coronavirus vaccine candidates, said Thursday that Sinovac’s shot may be deemed “acceptable,” but stressed that the Philippines needs to review full data on its efficacy before it can be used in the country.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque had defended the government’s keenness on the Sinovac vaccine, saying that the biopharmaceutical company is the only manufacturer who could supply the country with inoculations at the soonest possible time.

24M eyed to get shot

The Philippines is eyeing to buy 25 million doses of Sinovac’s coronavirus vaccine, which is still undergoing late-stage trials.

Unlike its Southeast Asian neighbors Singapore and Indonesia which secured several vaccine supply deals with various manufacturers, the Philippines has only signed one agreement with one supplier, British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca, for 2.6 million doses which was made possible by some 30 private firms who pitched in to buy the shots.

The government eyes to ink a second deal with AstraZeneca for 30 million more doses of its inoculation by next week once it is approved for emergency use by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Health Regulatory Authority.

The country is also eyeing to secure four to 25 million doses of vaccines from Moderna and Arcturus, while vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said that American vaccine developer Novavax has committed to providing the country 30 million doses of its coronavirus shot.

The country, which has the second-worst coronavirus outbreak in the Southeast Asian region following Indonesia, is targeting to vaccinate 24 million people against the virus that causes COVID-19 by next year.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 23, 2021 - 11:34am

Pharma giants Sanofi and GSK said on July 29, 2020, that they have agreed to supply Britain with up to 60 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine. The agreement covers a vaccine candidate developed by France's Sanofi in partnership with the UK's GSK and is subject to a "final contract."

This thread collects some of the major developments in the search for a vaccine to ease the new coronavirus pandemic. (Main photo by AFP/Joel Saget)

January 23, 2021 - 11:34am

Pfizer announces that it will provide up to 40 million of its COVID-19 vaccine doses to poorer countries on a non-profit basis, through the globally-pooled Covax facility.

While dozens of the world's richer countries have begun their vaccination campaigns in a bid to curb the pandemic, coronavirus jabs have been few and far between in the world's poorer nations. — AFP

January 22, 2021 - 5:14pm

The Hungarian government says it had reached a deal to buy large quantities of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, even though it has not been approved by the European Union's medicines watchdog.

"Hungary has concluded with Russia an agreement to buy in three phases large quantities of the Sputnik V vaccine; the contract has been negotiated, and signed during the night," Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto says in a video statement on his Facebook page after meeting the Russian health minister in Moscow. — AFP

January 22, 2021 - 1:44pm

The Brazilian government says that a shipment of two million doses of the British AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine was finally set to arrive in the country from India.

The delivery Friday would be a much-needed boost to Brazil's vaccination program.

"The two million doses of AstraZeneca should arrive in Brazil Friday in the late afternoon," the ministry of health says in a statement. — AFP

January 20, 2021 - 7:12pm

Japan aims to start vaccinating the general public against the coronavirus in May -- just two months before the postponed Olympics -- following targeted jabs for the most vulnerable, reports said Wednesday.

The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said the government is hoping the majority of adults will be vaccinated by July, when the Games are due to open.

The country has agreed with pharmaceutical firms to receive enough doses for all 126 million residents and is working to approve the Pfizer jab as the first to be used in Japan from next month. —  AFP

January 20, 2021 - 8:31am

Mexican authorities are investigating the theft of several coronavirus vaccines from a public hospital, the army said Tuesday, underscoring the challenges of distributing the shots across the crime-plagued country.

Mexico, which has one of the world's highest COVID-19 death tolls, has deployed the military to guard the vaccines and prevent them falling into criminals' hands.

The army said that the stolen vaccines were under the control of a public health institution in a hospital in central Morelos state whose security is overseen by a private company.

"This theft could have been a dishonest act of self-interest by a member of the hospital's vaccination team," it said in a statement. — AFP

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