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 (Philstar.com) - 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: February 28, 2021 - 6:01pm

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)

February 28, 2021 - 6:01pm

Thousands of people demonstrated in cities across Argentina on Saturday to protest the "VIP vaccinations" scandal that forced the health minister to resign.

Gines Gonzalez Garcia quit a week ago at the president's request after it emerged that his friends had been able to skip the line for coronavirus inoculation.

Protesters carrying signs reading "Give me my vaccine" and "Stop wasting our money" gathered outside the government headquarters in Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires.

"They started by vaccinating friends of the government. It is not appropriate. They are stealing someone else's life," protester Irene Marcet told AFP.

Since Argentina began vaccinating its people, only healthcare workers had received the jab until Wednesday, when over-70s in Buenos Aires province were also invited to be immunized.

On Monday, the government released a list of 70 people who received the vaccine outside of the official campaign, which included the 38-year-old economy minister and former president Eduardo Duhalde, his wife and their children. — AFP

February 28, 2021 - 9:18am

The United States on Saturday authorized Johnson & Johnson's Covid vaccine for emergency use, giving the nation a third shot to battle the outbreak that has killed more than 500,000 Americans.

The single-shot vaccine is highly effective in preventing severe Covid-19, including against newer variants, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said before giving it a green light.

"This is exciting news for all Americans, and an encouraging development in our efforts to bring an end to the crisis," US President Joe Biden said in a statement.  — AFP

February 27, 2021 - 9:15am

A US panel of independent experts vote unanimously in favor of recommending Johnson & Johnson's one-dose COVID-19 shot for emergency approval, clearing the way for a third vaccine to soon begin shipping in the world's hardest hit country.

The committee's 22 members were convened by the Food and Drug Administration and included leading scientists as well as consumer and industry representatives.

Although their recommendations aren't binding, they are usually followed. — AFP

February 26, 2021 - 6:13pm

The United States hails progress in turning around its troubled COVID-19 vaccine rollout, as the European Union says it was on track to meet jab targets and Asia's inoculation drive gained pace on Friday.

Brazil hit 250,000 fatalities -- the second-highest national death toll after the United States -- while the worldwide vaccine campaign received the endorsement of Queen Elizabeth II, 94, who urged people not to be wary of the shot.

President Joe Biden declared the US rollout is now "weeks ahead of schedule" as he celebrated 50 million doses administered since he took office on January 20, but he warned Americans to keep masking up. — AFP

February 26, 2021 - 9:49am

A US panel of independent experts is set to vote Friday on whether to recommend emergency approval of Johnson & Johnson's single-shot Covid-19 vaccine, potentially paving the way for at least three million doses to ship next week. 

The committee's 22 members, who were convened by the Food and Drug Administration and include leading scientists as well consumer and industry representatives, will hold a daylong virtual meeting to decide if the known benefits of the drug outweigh its risks. 

It is an exercise in transparency without parallel among other advanced countries, giving the public access to the nitty gritty details of the scientific debate. —  AFP

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