MANILA—The price point of Sinovac vaccines that the Department of Health previously showed to the Senate was from a news report the DOH found in a Google search, Health Secretary Francisco Duque told senators Friday.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, did not agree with Duque’s methodology, suggesting there should have been a more thorough study of the pricing than just using a Reuters report.
In Senate hearings held in November 2020, 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.
That was cheaper only to Moderna — tabbed to be about P3,904 and P4,504 for 2 doses — among brands presented to the Senate.
That rate caused public backlash after it was discovered that other countries bought Sinovac jabs cheaper.
The DOH submitted the figure to the Senate committee on finance chaired by Angara.
On Friday, Lacson asked how Duque came up with the rate.
“I was told, Mr. Chairman, ito iyong ginoogle nila at lumabas nga itong sa Reuters,” Duque said.
“Nakalagay po rito, ‘Sinovac coronavirus vaccine offered by Chinese city for emergency use costs $60’. Tapos nag-compute po for VAT so mga P300 plus and another iyon pong in-assume nila na inflation, medical inflation, of about another 10%. So lumabas pong P3,629.50.”
Speaking to Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Duque said: “Galing po, for the record, from the published Google price ng Sinovac at $60 . . . Indicative lang po ito for budget planning purposes na iyan po ay ginamit.”
Duque said his department relied on publications, such as Financial Straits, although no such media organization exists.
“Sa Financial Straits, tsaka sa ibang publication lumabas po ito. Nagdadag lang po ng VAT (value added tax) na 12 percent kaya nagtaas, plus inflation rate . . . So lumabas P3,629,” Duque said.
The DOH’s Public Health Services Office and the Supply Chain Management Office came up with the computation, Duque said.
Lacson reprimanded the DOH for sourcing their pricing from news reports.
“Maybe this would serve as a lesson for future submission na dapat bago tayo mag-submit, accurate at validated iyong data . . . Du’n medyo nag-start ang controversy, especially sa infographic ng Bangkok Post,” Lacson told Duque.
The backlash on the earlier pricing forced vaccine czar Carlito Galvez to issue a clarification, saying the country procured Sinovac vaccines at a price between those of the Indian prices and Indonesian prices.
The Reuters report posted October 15, 2020, said the Chinese city of Jiaxing was offering Sinovac Biotech’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine to essential workers and other high-risk groups as part of a national program for about $60.
Jiaxing’s center for disease control and prevention said in a statement on WeChat at the time that two doses of the vaccine candidate, called CoronaVac, will cost 200 yuan ($29.75) per dose and that vaccinations for key groups including medical professionals have begun.
In the same report, Reuters said Bio Farma, a state-owned firm in Indonesia which had reached a deal for at least 40 million doses from Sinovac, said that week the vaccine will cost around 200,000 rupiah ($13.60) per dose when it becomes available in the southeast Asian country.