PH vaccine deal with China’s Sinovac not yet a ‘done deal’ — Galvez
MANILA, Philippines — It would still be possible for the Philippines not to proceed with its purchase of China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine since the agreement it has with the Philippine government is not yet a “done deal” and is still subject to the final nod of the country’s vaccine expert panel.
Senators learned this on Friday as the chamber resumed its inquiry into the national COVID-19 inoculation program.
It was during the questioning of Senator Nancy Binay that officials said the government’s deal with Sinovac for the supply of 25 million doses of its vaccines is not yet final.
“Done deal na ‘yan? Walang atrasan? [There’s no going back?]” Binay asked vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr.
“No,” Galvez said.
Before this, Binay had asked Galvez why the national government is spending money on Sinovac’s vaccine when other vaccines are more efficacious and have applied for an emergency use authorization (EUA) in the Philippines much earlier than the Chinese firm.
For instance, she noted that while the government has secured doses of vaccines from UK pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, it was only through a tripartite agreement with local government units (LGUs) and private companies.
“That was not government money. That was private-sector money…Unlike sa Sinovac, na kahapon lang or the other day lang nag-apply ng EUA [they only applied for an EUA yesterday or the other day], we are using national government money, tama po ba? [Right?]” the senator asked officials.
She pointed out that it would have been more logical to spend national government funds to procure the vaccine of a company that has long applied for a EUA with the FDA.
At this point, Galvez clarified that the national government has not yet paid Sinovac.
He said that what the Philippines has with Sinovac is an “advance market commitment” to ensure that the supply of vaccines has been “locked in.”
“Sa atin po ngayon [Currently], we are dealing with the term sheet considering we have to lock so that they can already make production,” he said.
“Wala pa po tayong government funds na naibibigay,” he added.
[We have yet to release funds.]
Binay then asked: “Technically, Secretary, pwede hindi pa rin tayo bumili ng Sinovac? [We can still opt not to buy Sinovac vaccines?]” Galvez answered in the affirmative.
National Task Force Against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon also answered Binay’s question in the affirmative.
“If the vaccine expert panel does not recommend a certain vaccine, then the Philippine government will not purchase and will not administer the vaccine. The choice of vaccine is heavily reliant on what the vaccine expert panel recommends,” Dizon explained.
While Sinovac was included in the seven vaccine brands recommended by the expert panel following its initial review, a final recommendation is still needed to go ahead with the purchase of the China-developed vaccine.
“Hihintaying po natin ang [We are waiting for the] vaccine expert panel’s final recommendation based on Phase 3 clinical trials and the FDA’s issuance of the EUA,” Dizon said.
Galvez had previously defended the government’s decision to procure jabs from Sinovac, saying it was offering its vaccine for a cheaper price than US pharmaceutical firms while Malacañang added that the firm’s vaccine has been “proven safe.”
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