MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday questioned what he described was government's preference for the "more expensive" and supposedly less efficient COVID-19 vaccine by Chinese firm Sinovac even as better-rated formulations are already available.
"Can somebody explain why preference is given to the second most expensive vaccine, has lower efficacy, a record of suspended clinical trials and has not even applied for EUA over other vaccines that cost much less, more efficacious and are about to be granted their EUA’s?" Lacson said in a tweet Wednesday.
EUA, or emergency use authorization, is a step that drug makers take for governments to allow use of their vaccine in their respective jurisdictions.
Lacson noted the reactions of health officials in the Senate hearing when asked about the vaccine.
"In case you haven’t noticed last Monday, whenever the senators asked about SinoVac, they sounded like groping even as they seemed prepared with their justification, like “taking different pathways,” “the Philippines may be at the tail end of the supply chain,” “they will advise Sinovac to apply for EUA”... et cetera, which only made it obvious that Sinovac is really the chosen one," Lacson said in a statement.
Government has secured 25 million doses of the Chinese vaccine.
The vaccine's late-stage trial in Brazil showed a general efficacy rate of less than 60 percent. Other vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca have shown efficacy ratings of over 90 percent.
Lacson also questioned how there has been preference for SinoVac even as it has not applied for emergency use authorization in the Philippines.
Food and Drug Administration Director-General Eric Domingo has said Sinovac has not applied for an EUA, said Lacson.
Sinovac was revealed to have been involved in bribery, according to a Washington Post report. It said Sinovac's CEO admitted to paying a Chinese official to expedite the company's vaccine certifications.
Lacson, however, set aside suspicion of political favors behind the apparent preference for the Sinovac vaccine, which was made by a privately-owned pharmaceutical company. This, amid speculation that the choice for the vaccine was due to close ties between the Philippine and Chinese governments.
Another Chinese vaccine by state-owned SinoPharm has higher efficacy rates than Sinovac, at 79 percent to 86 percent. The latter drug is also more expensive at P3,629 for 2 doses. On this, Lacson raised another query.
"This would raise another question - sa China rin lang unang bibili, bakit private company kinausap, hindi 'yung government-owned?"
(This would raise another question- we prefer to buy from China, but why are we talking to a private company, not the government-owned one?)