MANILA — The vaccine candidate from China's Sinovac Biotech remains the Philippines' first choice in its inoculation drive against the novel coronavirus, Malacañang said Thursday, despite an allegation that the drug maker had bribed Beijing's drug regulator.
A Washington Post report said court records show that Sinovac, which is also applying to run COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials in the Philippines, acknowledged the bribery. The CEO of the company reportedly told the court that he could not refuse the regulatory official who demanded money.
"The target remains that Sinovac will be the first that we can use to vaccinate our people and it will be in the first quarter of next year," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
"What we're waiting for is number magkaroon ng supply. Iyan po talaga ang problema, iyong supply. Pagdating po sa financing, wala na pong problema iyan," he told reporters.
(That's really the problem, the supply. When it comes to finance, there is no problem there.)
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The Philippines has been "consistent" in saying that only safe and effective vaccines will be used, Roque said.
"Buong-buong po ang tiwala ni Presidente kay [Food and Drug Administration Director] Dr. [Eric] Domingo," he said. "So pagdating po sa mga allegations-allegations on bribery, tingin ko po hindi mangyayari iyan sa Pilipinas."
(The President has full trust in FDA Director Dr. Eric Domingo. So when it comes to allegations on bribery, I don't think that will happen to the Philippines.)
Duterte recently allowed the FDA to clear coronavirus vaccines and drugs for emergency use.
Sinovac's vaccine called CoronaVac has been approved for emergency use in China to vaccinate high-risk groups since July 2020.
Having shown a substantial immune response and minimal safety concerns (mostly mild pain at the injection site) in phase 1 and 2 clinical trials, CoronaVac is now in phase 3 clinical trials.
The phase 3 trials have recruited tens of thousands of participants to test vaccine efficacy and safety, and are taking place in Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey.
China is developing at least five COVID vaccines from four producers. These vaccines, which have progressed through development very rapidly, are largely based on traditional vaccine manufacturing techniques such as inactivating the virus.
These methods provide some benefits to the vaccines over others. For example, some of the Chinese-developed vaccines can be stored in regular fridges, making distribution much easier. This is in contrast to Pfizer’s jab, which must be kept at around -70 degrees Celsius.
- With a report from Reuters