Senate hearing did not lead to lower Sinovac prices, says vaccine czar

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 18 2021 11:18 AM | Updated as of Jan 18 2021 01:28 PM

Galvez says price disclosure can jeopardize deals; Dizon says terms out after negotiations

MANILA (UPDATE 2) - The Philippine government did not drop the price of Sinovac vaccines following a Senate hearing, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said Monday.

In Senate hearings held last year, the China-made vaccine was projected to be priced at P3,629.50 for 2 doses, according to data from Sen. Sonny Angara's office last December 9. 

This made Sinovac the second most expensive brand among the brands presented, next only to Moderna, which would be around P3,904 and P4,504 for 2 doses.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Sunday, 2 days after a fresh Senate hearing on the government's vaccination plan, that Sinovac vaccines may cost around P650. 

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said in a tweet, if it's true that the price was dropped from P1,847, then "the Senate has probably done our share to save our people billions of pesos in the country’s vaccination program." 

Social media users can also "pat themselves on the back" for this, he said.

"Masyado namang nang-aangkin ng accomplishment 'yung ano. Hindi naman ganun. Kahit wala pa 'yung Senate hearing, ang price ay ganun talaga. Sinabi nga namin kay Sec. Roque na hindi tataas ng P700," Galvez told ANC's Headstart.

(That's taking too much credit for an accomplishment. That's not the case. Even without the Senate hearing, the price is set as that. We told Sec. Roque that it wouldn't be more than P700.)

"To [set] the records straight, before the Senate hearing, tapos na 'yung term sheet. Ang price talaga, sinasabi namin in between Indian price and Indonesian price kasi yun ang realistic," he said.

(To set the records straight, before the Senate hearing, the term sheet has been finished. The price is really in between the Indian price and the Indonesian price because that's realistic.)

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Galvez said news reports that the Sinovac vaccines are priced at $36 or $76.5 were "very erroneous." The P3,629 price tag is for the Sinopharm brand, he added.

"Ang talagang market price ng Sinovac is 26.5 (dollars). 'Yung P3,629 na nakalagay sa social media, 'yun po ang price ng Sinopharm. Kaya po pinili namin ang Sinovac kasi mas mura siya nang di hamak sa Sinopharm," he said. 

He also said it's impossible for any country to have gotten the vaccine at $5, unless done through the COVAX initiative, which can subsidize the vaccine price for orders over and above the 20 percent of the nation's population.

He also maintained that government is bound by confidentiality agreements with the pharmaceutical companies. This is why he could not disclose the exact prices during the Senate hearing.

"Hindi po pwedeng i-reveal po 'yung trade secrets, especially 'yung price kasi po pwede pong mag-withdraw immediately ang ano po natin at hindi na po sila magtitiwala sa'tin," he said.

(We cannot reveal trade secrets, especially the price because they can withdraw immediately and they will not trust us anymore.)

While price is the most important, other vital information that must remain confidential are the volume and the exact time of delivery, he said.

Government will disclose the price of the vaccines it procured after negotiations are done, according to Secretary Vince Dizon, testing czar and deputy chief implementer of the National Task Force against COVID-19.

"What we can assure the public is negotiations are ongoing and when these negotiations are concluded, the issues such as price and volume will be disclosed to the general public," he told Headstart in a separate interview.

"Secretary Roque did not reveal the definite price because negotiations are still ongoing. What Secretary Roque gave was an indicative range."

Government will prioritize in its rollout the frontliners, followed by the vulnerable and the indigent, Dizon said.

"Essential workers are part of that clear prioritization schedule because it’s critical we open up the econ as fast as we can in the safest way possible," he added.

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