Duterte defends Galvez, slams critics over corruption claims in Sinovac deal

Marje Pelayo   •   January 19, 2021   •   264

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte vouched for vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.’s plan to procure Chinese-made vaccine Sinovac for the government’s vaccination program against coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

This is amid questions on the efficacy of Sinovac and allegations of overpricing.

“I’m telling Gen. Galvez na ang game plan niya, sundin niya (follow his game plan). With or without the investigation, proceed and implement what we plan to do,” President Duterte said.

Duterte revealed that even before the pandemic worsened, he had appealed to Chinese President Xi Jinping regarding the vaccines. In response, the Chinese leader promised to help.

Long before na pumutok ito tumawag na ako kay President Xi Jinping. Tapos sabi ko wala kaming resources. We do not know how to make it. Please do not forget the Philippines,” Duterte said, recalling his conversation with Xi.

Just recently, China committed to provide the Philippines with 500,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines for free.

As for the corruption issue, President Duterte assured that the procurement process will go through the thorough review of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez before the pricing and the documentary requirements are finalized. 

Duterte maintained that at this stage, the government is not allowed to speak of the pricing of the Sinovac vaccine as stated in the contract.

“They signed a memorandum of confidentiality. They cannot reveal the price kasi it will result in, na malugi ‘yung iba. — in some countries malugi sila, ‘yung ibang countries, hindi pare-pareho,” Duterte said.

He slammed critics who insist that there is corruption in the vaccine deal.

“Ito ayaw kong ‘yung pa-off tangent na mga tirada ninyo: ‘Bakit ba ito si Duterte Sinovac ng Sinovac?’ I-ano ninyo ang utak sa corruption-corruption. I don’t know why are you so occupied about corruption,” Duterte told critics. 

“Maghanap kayo hindi dito. Baka sa inyo. Baka sa departamento ninyo. Hindi dito sa akin, ” he added.

The Chief Executive also stressed that the government is not forcing anyone to receive and to purchase a particular brand of COVID-19 vaccine. Anyone who wants to procure vaccine other than Sinovac is free to do so just be responsible for the consequences.

“Almost everybody na kilala ko are scrambling to buy itong Pfizer. Well, to me I think it’s a good one. If you want to follow the experience of Norway, go ahead. Nobody will stop you,” he said referring to a report that 23 elderly patients died after receiving the Pfizer-made vaccine.

“We never prohibited anybody from buying from government. We are not — we are not selling, we are buying for the people, libre.” he said. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte to wait for FDA approval before using Sinopharm vax – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   March 2, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will wait for China-state-owned Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine to secure an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before receiving a dose, his spokesperson said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the announcement after the FDA confirmed that it has received Sinopharm’s application for an EUA that was filed on Monday afternoon.

“Mag-aantay po si president ng EUA dahil nabalita ko nga kahapon, mayroon na pong nag-apply ng EUA for the Sinopharm,” Roque said in a press briefing.

Securing an EUA from the FDA is part of the process for a vaccine to be legally used in the country.

The FDA earlier approved a compassionate use license for 10,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines for the members of the Presidential Security Group.

The agency, however, clarified that the issuance of such a permit is not tantamount to a stamp of approval.

Duterte earlier expressed a preference for Sinopharm developed COVID-19 vaccines. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Gatchalian volunteers to be inoculated with Sinovac vaccines

Robie de Guzman   •   March 2, 2021

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday said he has volunteered to receive the COVID-19 vaccine shot developed by Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech in a bid to address vaccine hesitancy.

In a statement, Gatchalian said he is willing to be inoculated with Sinovac’s CoronaVac if allowed under the government’s prioritization framework for the nationwide immunization campaign.

“Alam ko may prioritization tayo ngayon. Kung hindi naman lalabag dito, I would volunteer to be vaccinated by Sinovac. This is to show to the public our support to the vaccination program,” Gatchalian said.

The senator said he sent word to vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. over the weekend of his willingness to participate in the national vaccination program.

This is also to disprove the notion that some politicians want to be vaccinated with the brand of their choice and with an efficacy rate higher than CoronaVac, he added.

“What’s more important to me is the seal of approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If it’s approved by the FDA, which went through tedious analysis prior to the grant of authorization for emergency use, I’m okay with it,” he said.

“I’m okay with any brand of anti-COVID-19 vaccine. I’m not brand conscious. I put my trust in the FDA,” he added.

The FDA earlier said that Sinovac’s CoronaVac is not recommended for healthcare workers frequently exposed to COVID-19 patients due to its low efficacy rate of 50.4%, based on trials conducted in Brazil.

The FDA, however, clarified that health workers can still choose to receive the vaccine as it only made a recommendation on which groups it is not suited for.

The Philippine government on Monday rolled out its immunization program after COVID-19 vaccines donated by China arrived in the Philippines on Sunday.

The Department of Health said that more than 700 frontline workers, and government officials received the vaccine on the first day of immunization.

Prior to Monday’s immunization drive, a survey conducted from January 26 to February 1, 2021 by the OCTA Research Group showed that only 19% of Filipinos are willing to have themselves vaccinated while 46% would not want to be inoculated and 35% are still undecided.

Gatchalian, however, expressed optimism that the figures will change in the coming days.

“Maraming hesitant dahil bago itong vaccine. Kaya importante dito ang confidence building na dapat pangunahan ng mga opisyal ng gobyerno, well-known personalities, at kahit mga elected officials kagaya ng ginawa ni Indonesian President Joko Widodo at Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam,” he said.

Cebu City to start vaccination on March 4 after receiving Sinovac jabs

Robie de Guzman   •   March 2, 2021

Cebu City is eyeing to begin its COVID-19 immunization program on Thursday, March 4, after receiving thousands of doses of CoronaVac vaccines developed by Chinese firm Sinovac.

Some 7,200 doses of Sinovac jabs donated by the Chinese government arrived at the Mactan Cebu International Airport at around 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday.

The vaccines were then delivered to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City for storage.

More than 2,000 medical frontliners at the VSMMC initially registered for vaccination, but according to hospital chief, Dr. Gerard Aquino Jr., many of the vaccine recipients backed out after learning about the brand of the vaccine delivered.

“Initially we submitted the first, there are about 2,900 but lately kay siyempre, when we were informed nga lain ang brand so we have also to inform them,” Aquino said.

“So I think as of yesterday, we have 600 but it keeps on increasing kasi as of yesterday nakita naman nila (ang pagbakuna sa) mga health worker sa Manila,” he added.

Aquino also noted the importance of conducting information drive to increase public confidence and to prevent any misinformation about the vaccines.

“Plus, dapat we did some information campaign talaga kasi sad to say, meron talagang mga misinformation,” he said.

Aquino said he will be the first to receive the Sinovac jab to lead by example and dispel doubts on COVID-19 vaccination.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) to Sinovac but did not recommend its use for health workers caring for COVID-19 patients due to its lower efficacy rate of 50.4% based on clinical trials conducted in Brazil.

The Department of Health (DOH) previously stressed that the FDA’s recommendation on Sinovac was not a contraindication and that this does not prohibit healthcare workers from getting the Sinovac jab.

The DOH urged frontliners to take the available vaccine to give them protection against the virus.

The agency, however, stressed that medical frontliners will not be forced to take the shot and that they will not lose their priority status if they choose to decline the Sinovac vaccine shot.

The Philippine government on Monday formally rolled out its COVID-19 vaccination program to several hospitals in Metro Manila after receiving the donated vaccine doses from China on Sunday. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Ryan Mallari)

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