Duterte vouches for Galvez: Why focus on alleged corruption in vaccine pricing?
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte vouched for the government’s national COVID-19 vaccination plan on Monday, questioning critics why they were preoccupied with alleged corruption in the procurement of vaccines.
In his taped briefing, Duterte defended vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. from accusations of corruption arising from the variations in the prices of CoronaVac, which is made by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech.
Galvez had nothing to do with the payment schemes, the president said.
Approval for the payment for the vaccine would have to go through him and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.
“All Galvez can do is to come to an agreement as representative or agent of the Republic of the Philippines. He has no say in the payment,” Duterte said.
“I don’t know why are you so occupied with corruption that you’re looking for it. Not here… maybe in your department,” he said, speaking partly in Filipino.
Prior to this clarification, Duterte said he had heard rumblings in government circles about his alleged preference for the Sinovac vaccine. He did not specify where he heard the speculations.
He denied preferring the vaccine. Long before the issue popped up, he said he had already called Chinese President Xi Jinping and made a deal with him.
According to him, he told Xi that the Philippines had no resources to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We do not know how to make it. Please do not forget the Philippines,” Duterte recalled telling Xi.
Currently, the government is in talks with Sinovac as part of its the national vaccination plan. However, several officials have questioned whether Sinovac is the right choice due to its low reported efficacy ratings and changing prices.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson mentioned on Sunday an alleged big discrepancy between the selling prices of Sinovac in the Philippines and in other countries, prompting questions whether the Philippines’ procurement was riddled by corruption.
According to Lacson, the Sinovac vaccine costs around $5, or roughly P240, per dose in some instances, but in the Philippines goes for around $38, or roughly P1,800.
Galvez said before that the Sinovac vaccine was procured because it was cheap. On Monday, he denounced what he called erroneous reports on the price of the vaccine, saying that it would not go above P700.
However, some senators insisted that the original vaccine price, which skyrocketed to over P3,600 per two doses, came from the Department of Health around November.
But aside from the high prices, Sinovac’s efficacy is being questionas it only scored a measly 50 percent rating in Brazil.
Duterte then questioned whether people would prefer that of American pharmaceutical company Pfizer, even after individuals supposedly died after taking the vaccine.
“You want the one from Pfizer, you senators. In Norway, 25 persons died after getting the Pfizer vaccination. If you want, we’ll order for you,” Duterte said.
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