What happened?

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - December 22, 2020 - 12:00am

What happened to the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine and why did the deal to acquire it fall through? DFA Sec. Locsin and Philippine ambassador to the US Amb. Romualdez chided a government official for "dropping the ball" on the said deal, a sentiment likewise shared by Sen. Panfilo Lacson. Pfizer is the first company to release data on its 95% efficacy rate. The processing of documents required by Pfizer from the government to supply the vaccine to the country was slow, in effect failing to provide the vaccine by January next year.

Naturally, DOH Sec. Duque defended himself stating the deal to acquire the vaccine from Pfizer was not neglected. Some processes must be followed and studies done since the Pfizer vaccine uses new, untested technology. This was echoed by vaccine czar Carlito Galvez saying many aspects such as "safety, efficacy, cost-effectiveness, the track record of the vaccine maker, complexity of handling and logistics, after-sales and life cycle services, production capacity and early delivery, and long-term commitment.”

But was the same care and processing also done in choosing the Chinese Sinovac vaccine? This is exactly what Dr. Leachon was asking which according to Presidential spokesman Roque, President Duterte was really mad and cursed Leachon multiple times and accused him of just wanting a position in government. They had to edit out all the curses in the president's speech before airing it to the public. Leachon denied he wanted any position in government and said he was merely asking because it seemed like choosing the Sinovac was quick and easy even though it has not released any data on its third phase of clinical trials and efficacy rate. It is also expensive compared to other viruses. I refer back to Galvez' statement about the cost.

I also watched the press conference of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo where he explained the proper handling and storage of the box containing the Pfizer vaccine. It is important to keep the vaccine cold or else it becomes destroyed. The box containing the vaccines can only be opened twice a day and for only a few seconds at a time. The box must always contain dry ice to keep it cool. If a facility to properly store the vaccine at a very low temperature is not available, then these are the rules to be strictly followed. If that's the case then the government must make sure to train the vaccine handlers.

I hope whatever vaccine the country eventually acquires is not because of politics or favoring a certain country. It is clear the vaccine from China is favored and may be ready for distribution soon. I hope this vaccine meets the requirements mentioned by Galvez knowing the lack of data and the fact that it is more expensive than the rest. The Pfizer vaccine which currently has published data and high efficacy may have handling issues. Other companies are also set on releasing their respective vaccines. I hope we choose the right one as the Philippines is lagging behind everyone else in acquiring and distributing a much-needed vaccine to the people.

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