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Sinovac’s vaccine may cost more but makes up for easier storage, says distributor

/ 04:17 PM August 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The local sponsor of Sinovac Biotech’s vaccines against COVID-19 said that there is some give-and-take despite the high prices of their vials, as these can be offset by easier storage and delivery requirements.

IP Biotech commercial director Carlos Garrucho said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay virtual forum that the reason why Sinovac’s vaccines costs higher than its counterparts, like American-made Pfizer and Moderna, is that the technology used by the former costs more.

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Sinovac uses an inactivated virus — a traditional means of making vaccines.  But Pfizer and Moderna’s messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines supposedly are cost-efficient to make — although both require extremely low temperatures of around -70 degrees Celsius and -20 degrees, respectively.

Sinovac’s vaccine would not be wasted if stored in ordinary freezers with temperatures of -2 degrees Celsius, hence making it easier to transport to areas without low-temperature storage.

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“So Pfizer and Moderna make use of new technology, this is the messenger RNA or the mRNA.  Based on the information that I have, the old technology which is the inactivated virus type — which is Sinovac and a few others — unfortunately the old technology is costlier to make,” Garrucho said.

“And that’s really just the way it is.  The good news […] is that the temperature requirements of Sinovac are much lower, so it eases warehousing, delivery, for private markets.  So there’s nothing really we can do when it comes to the costs involved in manufacturing, also because unfortunately, we’re at the mercy of the manufacturers,” he added.

It is a small price to pay for movability, Garrucho implied.

“But again, the transport and the handling is cheaper, so it’s a little give-and-take there,” he noted.

It is not clear what the vaccines’ prices really are, especially with the national government doing direct country-to-country negotiations as of this time, with vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. mentioning before that Sinovac’s vaccines would not go over P700 per dose.

But last December, a price list made public by the Department of Health and brought up in the Senate discussions showed that Sinovac’s CoronaVac costs around P3,629 for the two doses.

This is somewhat higher compared to the price of other vaccines from AstraZeneca (P610), Pfizer (P2,379), Moderna (P3,904), and Gamaleya (P1,220).

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READ: PH vaccines: Adding more money to pay for hidden price tags 

Garrucho also addressed fears that Sinovac’s vaccines are not as effective as other available brands, noting that the 50 percent effectivity rate was obtained in a different manner, as those included in the Stage 3 clinical trials in Brazil are health workers addressing COVID-19 patients — implying that there is a greater chance of infection among the subjects.

“I’d like to address Sinovac in terms of efficacy, because there is some confusion […] so it is true that the efficacy of Sinovac for the original strain is at 50 percent.  However, that 50 percent was done in a unique Stage 3 clinical trial in Brazil where 100 percent of the participants were healthcare workers assigned to COVID-19 wards,” he said.

“We’re actually lucky that a study was done on a COVID-19 vaccine using that protocol.  I don’t believe that any other vaccine has done that protocol that Sinovac did,” he added.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion who was also present in the forum said that the government must use what vaccine is available, noting that he has seen families whose members received different kinds of vaccines get infected with COVID-19.

But just the same, all recovered in two to three days.

“Moving forward, that is what we have to do, but for now, we will just have to use whatever vaccines we have to just protect our people.  Whether the efficacy is not as strong as Moderna or Pfizer, but clearly I’ve seen a household who have take Moderna, Pfizer, Sinovac, and all of them got infected,” Concepcion said.

“But the good thing about that, in two or three days, they were all well.  So the vaccines, regardless of the brand, do work,” he added.

While the national government has pushed for the vaccinations against COVID-19, there have been qualms about the administration’s alleged preference for China-based Sinovac, the most-procured vaccine in the country as of now.

Critics feared that what happened in Indonesia — where health workers got infected even after being fully immunized with Sinovac’s vaccines — might also happen in the Philippines.

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TAGS: Carlos Garrucho, cold storage facility, Coronavac, COVID-19 Vaccinations, COVID-19 Vaccines, IP Biotech, Kapihan sa Manila Bay, Moderna, Pfizer, Philippine news updates, Sinovac Biotech
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