Gov't told to prioritize acquiring Pfizer vaccines over unauthorized jabs
An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German partner BioNTech, on November 17, 2020.

Gov't told to prioritize acquiring Pfizer vaccines over unauthorized jabs

Bella Perez-Rubio ( - January 14, 2021 - 4:57pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:55 p.m.) — Two senators on Thursday said top officials should focus on acquiring vaccines from Pfizer instead of manufacturers whose jabs have not yet received regulatory approval in the country.

"The Food and Drug Administration's green light to use the Pfizer vaccine in the country against the novel coronavirus should prompt the government to immediately negotiate for its purchase and delivery to the Philippines.," a statement released by Sen. Grace Poe reads.

"Negotiations with Pfizer should be prioritized over deals with other manufacturers whose products have yet to get FDA's approval," she added.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan similarly pushed the government to expedite negotiations with the US biotech company. 

“Pfizer should be on top of the government's list for purchase over other vaccines that have yet to get the emergency use authorization,” he said.

"Funds are already available in the 2021 national budget, from Bayanihan 2, and from grants and loans, that we can use to buy vaccines for the protection of Filipinos, especially the most vulnerable," Pangilinan added in Filipino. 

Earlier on Thursday, the FDA announced that it granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE's jab, making it the first vaccine to receive the authorization needed for rollout in the government's national vaccination plan.

Only health professionals, who are trained to recognize and manage severe allergic reactions, will be allowed to administer the vaccine which has been cleared for the use of people aged 16 and above.

During the same press briefing, the FDA revealed that it received an application from China's Sinovac for emergency use of its vaccine.

According to vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., either the Pfizer or the Sinovac vaccine will be the first to arrive in the country next month.

'Worrisome' Sinovac purchase

But senators have expressed concern over Sinovac's jab whose efficacy remains unclear. In Brazil, it was shown to be 50.4% effective, barely meeting the threshold of 50% to 60% set by global authorities.

Pangilinan on Wednesday called on the government to cancel its purchase from Sinovac after trial results were released by the Brazilian government, noting that it was six times more expensive and 20% less effective than the United Kingdom's AstraZeneca. Sen. Ping Lacson made the same observation, questioning the government's acquisition choices.

In response, Galvez disputed these prices and claimed that the country is purchasing Sinovac doses at "best price" but did not reveal the cost.

But Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Thursday flagged the lack of transparency on vaccine cost, saying that the Senate might ask resource persons to disclose the prices in an executive session to prevent them from violating their non-disclosure agreements.

"What's kind of....worrisome is the statement of our dear Secretary Duque...that they have already made the order, or it's a done deal that we have 25 million doses of Sinovac coming into the country," Zubiri said in an interview with ANC's "Headstart," citing what he called the very low efficacy rating released by the Brazilian government on Wednesday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque on Monday also confirmed the country's purchase of 25 million Sinovac jabs, the first 50,000 of which are expected to arrive by February.

Palace: Philippines bought China's Sinovac vaccines at 'BFF' price

Still without disclosing the price of the vaccines purchased by the government, Roque during a virtual briefing on Thursday denied that Sinovac is the second most expensive of the vaccines being eyed by the government for acquisition. 

"I can say that of all our orders, Sinovac is not the most expensive....If I'm not mistaken, it is only the third most expensive out of six brands," Roque said in Filipino. 

"I can assure you na nabigyan po tayo ng presyo na ukol lamang sa kanilang BFF (that we were given a price that was only for their [best friend forever])," he added. 

Galvez and Roque have lauded China for offering the country what they said was the best price for the Sinovac doses but both Cabinet members have said that they are not at liberty to reveal exactly how much they cost.  

Roque further defended the choice to purchase tens of millions of doses of the vaccine despite the lack of definitive data on its efficacy, saying in Filipino: "There is nothing to rethink because we are taking all the steps to get any vaccine that can be proven safe and effective by our FDA as soon as possible." 

"Hindi natin gagamitin ang Sinovac kung walang EUA (We will not use Sinovac without EUA)," he also said. 

But Dr. Tony Leachon, a former adviser to the COVID-19 task force, said Filipinos should be told exactly how much the Sinovac vaccines cost. 

"Is it cheaper than the more efficacious vaccines like Pfizer or Astra[Zeneca]? I think the public has the right to know," he said on Twitter. 

Referring to questions about why the government is possibly purchasing more expensive and less efficacious vaccines, Leachon noted: "Its a valid concern." 

"[W]e should be relentless in pursuing the answers to these important questions. It’s about our health and vaccines are our lifesavers and the solid link to economic recovery." — with a report from Xave Gregorio 

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 21, 2021 - 1:07pm

The national government has so far secured two official deals for COVID-19 vaccine supplies in the Philippines, one with Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac and another with the Serum Institute of India.

Watch this space for bite-sized developments on the vaccines in the Philippines. (Main image by Markus Spiske via Unsplash)

January 21, 2021 - 1:07pm

The World Bank announces it will put $34 million into a program to provide coronavirus vaccines for more than two million people in Lebanon, which is experiencing a major surge in COVID-19 cases.

"This is the first World Bank-financed operation to fund the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines," the Washington-based institution says in a statement.

Lebanon, a country of more than six million, has been logging some 5,500 cases a day since the start of the year, the Bank says. — AFP

January 18, 2021 - 1:25pm

The Department of Health clarifies that the vaccine prices reported by the Senate are not the negotiated prices that the government and the manufacturer agreed on.

The vaccine prices that circulated earlier were indicative market prices based on rates published by drugmakers, the DOH says.

"The DOH urges the public to trust and respect the process that the country, through vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, is undertaking to ensure that Filipinos are afforded the best vaccines at the most ideal prices," the agency says in a statement.

January 14, 2021 - 4:09pm

The House of Representatives committee on Health will conduct its own hearing on the government's COVID-19 vaccination plan on January 18.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. have been invited as resource persons for the inquiry.

Representatives from the Food and Drug Administration, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Health Technology Assessment Council, Department of Science and Technology and World Health Organization have also been invited.

January 14, 2021 - 2:35pm

Sen. Grace Poe says the government should immediately negotiate the purchase and delivery of Pfizer vaccine now that the Food and Drug Administration has approved it for emergency use.

"The Filipinos have long waited for a safe and effective vaccine that would give them protection against COVID-19," Poe says in a statement.

"Negotiations with Pfizer should be prioritized over deals with other manufacturers whose products have yet to get FDA's approval," she adds.

January 14, 2021 - 12:01pm

China's Sinovac applies for emergency use authorization for its coronavirus vaccine.

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