Senators: 50% Sinovac efficacy unacceptable
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon in separate statements expressed alarm over reports that Sinovac trials in Brazil showed that the Chinese-made vaccine was only over 50 percent effective. Its maker, Sinovac Biotech Ltd., reportedly has so far withheld data on its trials.
Sinovac, file

Senators: 50% Sinovac efficacy unacceptable

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - December 26, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Senators strongly warned yesterday the government against risking the lives of Filipinos and procuring China’s Sinovac vaccine, saying it is not only expensive compared to other brands but also only reportedly 50 percent effective.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon in separate statements expressed alarm over reports that Sinovac trials in Brazil showed that the Chinese-made vaccine was only over 50 percent effective. Its maker, Sinovac Biotech Ltd., reportedly has so far withheld data on its trials.

They noted that Pfizer vaccine has a high efficacy rate of 95 percent but has strict cold storage requirements, while the AstraZeneca serum has at least 75 percent effectiveness but with more compliable storing standards.

Zubiri said the country’s search for COVID-19 vaccines must take into account key factors including safety, efficacy, pricing and ease of distribution and implementation.

“All these factors must be harmonized to make sure we deliver to our people the vaccine that is cost effective but is efficient and deliverable. When we say efficient that means a high efficacy rate,” Zubiri said.

“That’s why the plan to get vaccines with only a 50 percent efficacy rate is totally unacceptable and a total waste of our funds and resources. That there’s a 50/50 chance of you getting COVID even after being vaccinated is a joke!” he added.

To stress his point, Zubiri said a 50 percent efficacy could mean one out of two Filipinos jabbed with Sinovac would still be infected with COVID-19 that would be dangerous for senior citizens, frontliners and those with co-morbidities.

He appealed to the National Task Force on COVID-19 to look at the effectiveness of the candidate vaccines “rather than political or geo-political reasons.”

“Safety of our people should come first, not the feelings of our neighboring friends,” Zubiri said.

Drilon said while there is great urgency in procuring vaccines and the government is trying to strike a balance among various key factors, safety and efficacy should be the first and foremost consideration, otherwise, it runs the risk of people refusing the inoculations out of fear.

“We’re talking about the lives and the future of Filipinos here. We cannot accept ‘that will do’ when it comes to vaccines,” Drilon said in Filipino.

He said vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez must consider the reports on the Chinese vaccine carefully and wait for clearer guidelines from the scientific community and other authorizing agencies to determine whether or not Sinovac “is worth offering to our people.”

It is most important, he said, that the government gets a vaccination program started in 2021 with the best possible combination of vaccines it can procure.

“There is a global shortage of vaccines and we should focus on vaccinating our priority segments,” Drilon said.

Herd immunity will require a multi-year vaccination program and, over time, the country can look to inoculating 60 percent to 90 percent of the population.

“But our near-term priority should be to vaccinate our frontliners and highest risk population, which is the first 20 percent,” Drilon said.

Meanwhile, flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is preparing its fleet to help in the eventual transport of COVID-19 vaccines to the country and around the region.

“The long-awaited global launch of the COVID-19 vaccine contributes to the cautious optimism of the Philippines’ travel and tourism sectors. PAL is readying its fleet of wide-body aircraft for the task of transporting vaccines to the Philippines and around the region,” it said.

Quezon City second district Rep. Precious Castelo earlier urged the government to tap local airlines for the transport and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines in and around the country. – Richmond Mercurio

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