- CHR calls for ‘equitable access’
- Galvez: Vaccines not overpriced
Malacañang said the country may not push through with its purchase of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines if the Chinese pharmaceutical firm fails to get an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
“No vaccine can be used by the government without EUA,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Saturday.
During a Senate hearing on Friday, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez and testing czar Vince Dizon were grilled on why the government was bent on purchasing the Sinavoc vaccine when its efficacy lagged behind other brands.
Dizon said if the vaccine-expert panel would not recommend the vaccine and the FDA would not grant it an EUA, then the government would not go ahead with the purchase.
Galvez also assured senators the Sinovac procurement was not yet a done deal.
So far, the Philippine FDA has only granted EUA to Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine – a vaccine which has been found 95 percent effective in its study population and 92 percent effective among all races after Philippine FDA evaluation.
Before Pfizer-BioNTech’s secured its Philippine EUA, it had secured EUAs from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Singapore, among others.
Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights called on the national government to ensure an “equal distribution of and access to” COVID-19 vaccines.
“From a human rights perspective, equitable vaccination promotes and protects public health of the entire nation for ‘no one will be secure until everyone is secure,’” Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana said in a statement.
Gana said the CHR was concerned that local government units in urban centers and metropolitan areas had been “lining up to gain immediate and priority access to COVID-19 vaccines seemingly ahead of others.”
“It is the responsibility of the national government to make sure that vaccines must be as accessible for Filipinos in urban cities as well as those situated in far-flung areas of the country where there is a known cluster of infected population,” Gana said.
“There may be local government units with a host of infected residents who may not have resources to urgently procure vaccines. The national government must step in to maintain a balanced access to the Covid-19 vaccines,” she added.
Gana added the distribution of vaccines should “ensure the rapid, coordinated, and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for all Filipinos wherever they may be residing in the country.”
She also reminded the government of its obligation to uphold the people’s right to health, and this includes a vaccination program.
“Since a vaccination program is part of the government’s obligation to uphold the people’s right to health, it must then also adhere to the standards of availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality,” she said.
“Such standards include the people right to know and be assured of a vaccine’s effectiveness and that it is scientifically and medically appropriate and of good quality,” she added.
Gana said should the government fail to roll out the vaccination program for all in one go, “then it must work for its progressive realization – efficiently and effectively, in partnership with possible sectors, and to the best effort and resources it can devote—until we ensure that no one gets left behind.”
“An efficient vaccination system promotes the universal quest for everyone to be accorded the right to a standard of living adequate for one’s health and well-being, especially in the aspect of medical care. An effective national vaccination strategy is a vital component of an efficient national health care program, and an undeniable human right,” she added
In related developments, Galvez said the vaccine prices the Philippine government was currently negotiating with vaccine manufacturers were lower than the prevailing market price.
“I can assure you that the price of Indonesia and the price of the others will be almost, not much gap,” Galvez said during the continuation of Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry on the national immunization program.
This was revealed to dispel information circulating online that the Philippines was procuring Sinovac vaccine at P3,600, significantly higher than the price released by Indonesian government for the same vaccine brand at $13.57 or P651 for the procurement of 160 million doses.
“I can assure you that in our negotiation, the prices relative to our neighbors are fair and considered the best price ,” he added.
He said the national government could not disclose yet the actual negotiated price with the vaccine manufacturer so that it would not hamper the ongoing negotiations as well as harm the deals with other vaccine companies.
He committed that all prices would be available to the public in due time.
Vaccines to be procured by the Philippine government are secured through multilateral arrangements with fund managers such as the Asian Development Bank and World Bank.
According to Galvez, with these fund managers, the country could be assured of more strict and transparent documentation when it comes to procurement.
“We assure the public that it (vaccine procurement) will undergo strict [procedure] considering that all our vaccine procurement will undergo ADB and WB stringent regulatory requirements,” sad Galvez.
Galvez said the centralized procurement implemented by the national government, which is a prevailing practice in many developing and developed countries, ensures greater access to vaccines at lower prices. Moreover, it guarantees equitable distribution, as well as complies with regulations relative to the use and sale of vaccines among countries.
“Given there is not enough supply yet, the Philippine national government’s approach is to pool national volumes to get a seat at the negotiating table and secure the most number of vaccines at the best prices with our partners in the private sector and the LGUs (local government units),” Galvez explained.
At present, at least 80 percent of the global vaccine supply have been pre-ordered by the vaccines’ countries of origin.
The two percent has been secured under the COVAX Facility, while the remaining 18 percent is now up for grabs by developing countries such as the Philippines.
The tripartite method, which is a first-of-its-kind deal in the world, will help the country secure its vaccine requirement.
It locks-in the orders of the Philippines with pharmaceutical companies whose products are already in the advanced stages of development and have shown promising results.
Under such tripartite agreements, Galvez said the national government would try to get the best price through negotiations with vaccine manufacturers, while the LGUs and companies provide the funding.
A total 17 million doses have been secured through tripartite agreements forged between LGUs, private companies, and the national government with British-Swedish vaccines maker Astrazeneca last Thursday.
The first batch of vaccines consisting of 2.5 million doses purchased by private firms last November 2020 will be delivered in May of this year. On the other hand, the 14.5 million doses ordered by 39 LGUs and 300 companies through a tripartite agreement signed on January 14 will arrive in the country by the third or fourth quarter of 2021.
“The government will strive to meet its target of 148 million doses of safe and effective vaccines this year at the earliest possible time,” he added.