The president, the best salesman

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - January 17, 2021 - 12:00am

On television last Thursday morning, I saw President Rodrigo Duterte proclaim that the COVID-19 vaccine developed in the Peoples’ Republic of China, (Communist China, to me) is “as good as any other vaccine” made in America and Europe. The president, speaking without his usual jests, assured us that this Red Chinese vaccine is “safe and sure” because “bright ang mga Intsik” that developed it. He addressed his virtual audience in absolute confidence as if he holds the enviable position in the laboratory company as its chief operating officer or its paid propagandist. I want to believe that he’s neither.

The presidential assurance is ranged against a variety of noisy claims comparing the Chinese vaccine (which for purposes of this write-up, we shall call Sinovac), against other brands notably Pfizer. Some of these claimants are respected professionals. I count Dr. Tony Leachon, whose podcast I regularly listen to, as among them. From Leachon and others, there has emerged this perception that the efficacy of Sinovac is only 50% (rounded figure) whereas the known American-German Pfizer-Biontech has a reported 95% effectivity. I learned that efficacy refers to the protective immune response that a vaccine gives to its recipient. From that little learning, I can parrot that Sinovac is just about half effective compared to Pfizer. If reason were to prevail, all moves should be directed to buying the Pfizer vaccine, unless...

The other noisy comparison is in the pricing. Considering we are poised to buy millions of doses with total price tags reaching into billions of pesos, the difference in the acquisition cost must be staggering. Many people have brought forth information that the Pfizer vaccine costs only this low while the Sinovac is priced that much higher. I couldn’t validate these bits of news but if these conflicting figures are true, it’s logical for our authorities to do everything to get the Pfizer medicine, unless .....

The televised address of our president last Thursday was arguably aimed at these two points namely efficacy and price of the COVID-19 vaccine. Duterte, who enjoys 91% trust rating of Filipinos, needs to come to the aid of the beleaguered Chinese product. Our president is the most credible endorser of this Chinese made medicine, even If he failed to remind us that the virus originated in China. His pronouncement should inspire our belief enough to silence those who doubt the efficacy the vaccine from China. Duterte’s preference for Sinovac makes him the best salesman of the vaccine.

I am absolutely embarrassed to ask if, being a product endorser of a foreign-made vaccine, is our president credible? Can we believe the declaration of Duterte that the Sinovac is efficacious “kay bright ang mga intsik” and affordably cheap credible, as mouthed by Gen. Galvez? The litmus test of Duterte’s credibility is in his previous pronouncements. Let me recall a few. Duterte asserted that within three months of his presidency, he would stop the illegal drug trade. That assertion was made more than four years ago and narcotics is still with us. Duterte declared that he would put an end to the contractualization of labor. More than four years passed and such declaration is buried in the ashes of the forgotten past, unfulfilled. That Duterte, if elected president, would ride on a jet ski to the West Philippine Sea and shoot all invading Chinese, continues to ring a bell in me. Look what happened! In his term, the Chinese not only occupied the islands in the West Philippine Sea, it built military installations there. Credible? Here I rest my case.

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