Two lawmakers on Saturday questioned the government's preference for China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine when its reported efficacy rate is just 50 percent or way below the World Health Organization's “preferred efficacy” of at least 70 percent.
"Why settle for this 'pasang-awa' kind of vaccine when we can get more efficient ones at a lower price?" Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Ferdinand Gaite asked.
During the last Senate hearing on the COVID-19 budget, Gaite, member of the Makabayan Bloc, said the Astrazeneca vaccine only costs P610 for two doses, Novovax for P366, Pfizer for P2,379, Moderna from P3,904 to P4,504, Sinovac for P3,629.5, Gamaleya for P1,220 and COVAX for P854.
Sinovac is among the top two most expensive COVID-19 vaccines, the solon said.
"With the limited budget we have for the vaccine if placed at P82.5 billion would mean that only 22,730,403 of our countrymen would be vaccinated and it is at a lower efficacy rate at that," he said.
Gaite added: “Other vaccine candidates have 95 percent or 94.5 efficacy rates or even at just 80 or 90 percent but at a much lower price then more of our countrymen could get vaccinated sooner and with a higher chance of not getting infected with the COVID-19 virus. So why settle for anything less?" he said.
Gaite also said Sinovac have yet to make public the results of its efficacy tests, including Brazil's late-stage trial results of the vaccine.
Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun shared a similar view.
"Why settle for 50 percent efficacy when we can go for the vaccines with 95 percent efficacy? Let us give our people the best protection they deserve. Why an inferior vaccine that is not even cheaper, but even substantially more expensive?"
Fortun, a member of the House minority bloc, said he commended the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) for its public disclosure that the Sinovac vaccine only has a 50-percent efficacy based on its latest available data.
"The DOST-PCHRD was simply stating how Sinovac is at the minimum range of the bar applicant vaccines are supposed to hurdle. The Filipino people must now express to the IATF and to Malacanang what they prefer to be administered to them when their turn comes for vaccination against COVID-19," Fortun said.
"At this point, the Filipino needs only common sense to compare the choices. The vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna have up to 95 percent and 94 percent efficacy based on Phase 3 clinical trial results. The China vaccine has not yet completed Phase 3 testing and available information show only 50% efficacy and costing about the same as the vaccines with 94-95 percent efficacy," Fortun added.