SENATE Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday urged the government to prioritize the purchase and use of vaccines that have high levels of efficacy, lamenting that Filipinos are being short-changed when it comes to getting the most effective vaccines.
“Kapag buhay ng Pilipino ang nakasalalay, hindi pwede ang ‘pwede na’. We need to buy the most effective vaccines,” Drilon said in a statement Tuesday.
“When it comes to the life of millions of Filipinos and the future of the country, there should be no price tag. We can buy the most expensive vaccines with high efficacy. We should not short-change our taxpayers. But we are a fool to buy more expensive vaccines with doubtful efficacy,” Drilon said.
Drilon said Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez should open his eyes and set aside his personal preference, or that of the administration, for Chinese-made vaccine Sinovac now that the country has more access to different brands of vaccines.
“It is about time for Sec. Galvez to look at this objectively and listen to health experts. I have not heard of any doctor or any member of the medical profession that recommends Sinovac over Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca. Bring me one, Sec. Galvez, aside from Health Secretary Francisco Duque III,” Drilon said.
Drilon cited reports in other jurisdictions that used Sinovac as its main vaccine such as Indonesia, where it was reported that a relatively high number of vaccinees, especially members of the health care sector, have caught COVID-19 despite being vaccinated with the China brand of vaccine.
“That is very alarming because as it appears now, Sinovac is the vaccine of choice by the government. We want to prevent the situation that is happening now in Indonesia. We are not promoting any brand. What we are saying is, Filipinos deserve the best vaccine, especially frontline doctors and nurses who are exposed to the virus,” Drilon said.
He added that these reports about Sinovac “do not augur well for a country that has high vaccine hesitancy.”
Drilon said that he can understand that it was Sinovac that was immediately available to the Philippines at the time when negotiations with Pfizer did not immediately materialize into agreements – for which the government was only to blame.
However, now that the country has access to more and better vaccines, Drilon said the government should make it a policy to prioritize the purchase and distribution of vaccines with high levels of efficacy.
Pfizer has shown an efficacy rate of 95 percent while Sinovac’s vaccine has recorded an efficacy rate of anywhere from 65 to 91 percent based on clinical trials in countries like Brazil.
Besides, Drilon pointed out that Pfizer’s price is quite lower than Sinovac which has been established to be less effective than the other brands.
“That’s a basic logic: why choose a vaccine that is less effective yet more expensive over a vaccine that is more effective but less expensive?” Drilon asked.