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 (Philstar.com) - 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: August 5, 2021 - 8:50am

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)

August 5, 2021 - 8:50am

People have been flocking to malls in the city of Manila that have been designated as vaccination centers. According to reports by ABS-CBN News, some had lined up overnight to get a vaccination slot only to be told in the morning that not everyone will be accomodated.

Residents of Las Piñas also started lining up in the early morning of Thursday in the hopes of getting a vaccine dose, ABS-CBN News also reports. 

August 3, 2021 - 8:27pm

Half of the population of the European Union has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to an AFP tally Tuesday, putting it ahead of the United States in the inoculation drive.

Nearly 224 million people across the 27 member states have been covered, with Spain leading the pack of larger countries with 58.3 percent of its population vaccinated, followed by Italy (54.4 percent), France (52.9) and Germany (52.2).

The figures mean Europe has now nosed ahead of the US in the vaccine drive. — AFP

July 22, 2021 - 8:18am

Another 1.5 million doses of Sinovac vaccine arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Thursday. 

According to government data, around 5.03 million of the Philippines' total 109 million population have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 almost five months into the government's inoculation campaign. 

July 15, 2021 - 5:16pm

Presidential adviser Joey Concepcion and several government officials welcome the arrival of the first tranche of AstraZeneca vaccines procured by the private sector.

“We are welcoming a total of 1.15M doses of AstraZeneca vaccines today ordered by the private sector and another 1.15 million doses in August and the rest are expected to be delivered in the coming months. A total of 2.75 million employees from close to 500 companies are expected to benefit from this—not to mention those who will benefit from the LGU procured doses,” Concepcion says.

“We want to help the government so that we can execute the vaccine rollout in the fastest and most efficient way possible. Allowing us to execute, we could focus on the vaccination of our employees, the LGUs could focus on its constituents, and the national government could focus on the rest that are not covered. We need a fast and almost perfect rollout and the private sector, with the arrival of these initial doses from AstraZeneca, can now do that for its employees," he adds.

June 28, 2021 - 12:05pm

The Philippine vaccination program has officially administered 10,065,414 doses COVID-19 vaccine, the Palace says.

A ceremonial 10 millionth dose was administered Monday morning in Valenzuela City.

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