Lacson: PH 'keeps flirting' with China vaccine makers but 'doesn't want to commit' | Inquirer News

Lacson: PH ‘keeps flirting’ with China vaccine makers but ‘doesn’t want to commit’

/ 02:28 PM January 11, 2021

Lacson and Duque

Sen. Panfilo Lacson — SENATE PRIB file photo; Health Secretary Francisco Duque III — INQUIRER file photo by RICHARD A. REYES

MANILA, Philippines — China’s ambassador to the Philippines has said that the Philippines “keeps flirting” with vaccine Chinese makers but refuses to make commitments, Senator Panfilo Lacson said as he criticized the national government for taking “too long” in its procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.

“In our recent dinner meeting with the Chinese ambassador. This was overheard, sabi niya, ‘Your officials’—the Philippine officials—‘keep flirting with us,’ referring to the vaccines. But ‘we need their commitment and they don’t want to commit,’” Lacson told government officials during the Senate’s inquiry into the country’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.


“So the allocations, yung stocks na dapat naka-allocate sa Pilipinas, ‘pag hindi kayo kumilos, we’ll just give it to other countries. That’s where we are, that’s our problem,” he added.

(So the allocations, the stocks intended for the Philippines, ‘if you don’t act quickly, we’ll just give it to other countries. That’s where we are, that’s our problem.)

Before this, senators pressed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue emergency use authorization (EUA) to several COVID-19 vaccines, which have already been approved in other countries.

Local government units (LGUs) recently announced setting aside funds for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for their constituents.

National Task Force Against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon explained to senators that the “only way that a private company or an LGU can procure vaccines is through the national government.”

This is because the authority being issued by the FDA is only an emergency use authority, Dizon pointed out.


This means, according to him, that a private company “cannot sell, on a commercial basis, it can only sell with the imprimatur of the government because the national government, through the FDA, issues an EUA.”

Interjecting, Lacson then asked: “What’s taking the government too long to act? If other countries can, why can’t we?”


In response, Dizon said it would be unfair to say that the government “has taken too long” in the procurement of vaccines.

But Lacson begged to differ, citing several instances where he said the government had supposedly failed to act quickly.

He pointed out that in the case of the Pfizer deal, where Health Secretary Francisco III was accused of “dropping the ball” in the deal, it took the government 118 days or over four months to sign a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA).

“On June 24, Pfizer sent an overview of the candidate vaccine. Do you know how long it took us to just sign the CDA? [It’s] 118 days, four months. Now, if 25 to 26 deaths per day, and 1,300 infections per day, [kung] hindi urgent, I don’t know what is,” Lacson said.

(On June 24, Pfizer sent an overview of candidate vaccines. Do you know how long it took us to just sign the CDA? 118 days, four months. Now, if 25 to 26 deaths per day, and 1,300 infections per day, if that’s not urgent, I don’t know what is.)

The senator also cited a May 26 letter sent by the manufacturer of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine to Duque.

In the letter, the Chinese manufacturer informed Duque that it invited the Philippines for collaborative clinical trials with the Philippines last May 12.

The letter, presented by Lacson during the hearing, thanked Duque for the approval of Sinopharm’s participation in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials in the Philippines last May 22.

“Ten days. May 22…So it took us 10 days just to reply,” the senator said.

Sinopharm applied for late-stage trials in the Philippines but later changed its mind and backed out from its initial plan.

The Department of Science and Technology said last week that Sinopharm has yet to decide whether or not it will pursue clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines.

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The government is looking to secure 148 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021. and inoculate at least 50 million Filipinos in 2021.

If global supply will be sufficient, the Philippines can achieve herd immunity this year, Duque said earlier in the hearing.


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TAGS: China, Coronavirus, COVID-19 Vaccine, Nation, News, procurement

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