Senators deny favoring any COVID-19 vaccine brand after Duterte remarks

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 22 2021 12:35 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte discusses matters with Senate President Vicente Sotto III and other lawmakers at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on Sept. 16, 2020. Toto Lozano, Presidential Photo/File

MANILA — At least 2 senators on Friday denied that a legislative probe into the country's COVID-19 inoculation drive favors any vaccine brand, contrary to insinuations by President Rodrigo Duterte. 

The Senate has "nothing but good intentions in conducting the hearings," said the chamber's leader, Senate President Vicente Sotto III. 

"We, the members oft the Senate, do not favor any particular brand of vaccines, but we favor any vaccine that is correctly priced, properly procured and distributed," he said in an opening statement in the third hearing on the country's COVID-19 vaccination plan.

Some senators earlier questioned the procurement of the vaccine from China's Sinovac, which was reportedly pricier and less efficient than other brands. 

On Monday, Duterte offered to buy Pfizer vaccines for the Senate as he scored some of its members for pushing the government to buy jabs from the US-based pharmaceutical giant. 

"Kaya nakakalungkot po ang akusasyon ng Malakanyang na kaya daw tayo mausisa ay dahil may pinapaboran daw tayong brand ng bakuna," said Sen. Risa Hontiveros during Friday's probe. 

(Malacañang's accusation that we are probing because we are favoring a vaccine brand is saddening.)

"I want also to put it on record- and it is fully reflected in our Senate journal- na sa hinaba-haba ng mga hearing dito sa Senado tungkol sa vaccines, walang ni isang beses na ako o kahit sinong senador ay may kinilingan na kahit anong brand." 

(All through the hearings here in the Senate about the vaccines, never did I or any senator favor any brand.)

Hontiveros, who Duterte singled out in his Monday speech, said the hearing should find out the vaccines' efficacy rate, their price, accessibility, and complete data. 

"Hindi namin kailangan na maging medrep ang alin mang bahagi ng gobyerno. We just need to trust that you will guard the health of Filipinos by bringing only the best and the safest vaccines here," said the lawmaker. 

(We don't need any part of the government to be a medical representative.)

The Philippines aims to begin immunization next month, hoping to inoculate 70 million people, or two-thirds of its population, this year.
 
The government has firmed up supply deals with China's Sinovac, US-based Pfizer, Novavax, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Russia's Gamaleya Institute, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez earlier said. 

Galvez on Thursday apologized for saying that the hearing has been politicized. 

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