"Here’s what’s really happening."
At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic shows no sign of easing up worldwide, with the coronavirus said to have mutated into another strain in a number of countries, perhaps it would be prudent for us to keep ourselves fully informed on the real score on the development of vaccines intended to keep the deadly disease in check.
Take the case of the vaccine from the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac that the Philippine government intends to import soon. When news reports said that this particular vaccine had an efficacy rate of “only” 50 percent, two legislators reacted at once and called on authorities to rethink the deal with China.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said vaccines against COVID-19 that have only a 50-percent efficacy rate is “totally unacceptable and a total waste of our funds and resources. That means there’s a 50/50 chance of you getting COVID-19 even after being vaccinated is a joke!”
The lawmaker said he would appeal to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to look at vaccines that have a high efficacy rate instead of considering “political or geopolitical reasons.”
“Safety of our people should come first, not the feelings of our neighboring friends,” Zubiri said. “Safety, efficacy, pricing, and ease of distribution and implementation should be the factors to be considered in providing Filipinos a vaccine that would protect them against Covid-19.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also cautioned the government against obtaining COVID-19 vaccines from China. “We emphasize the urgency of procuring Covid-19 vaccines. We understand that the government may be trying to balance cost, efficacy, availability, and logistics complexity in determining which vaccines to bring in. But safety and efficacy should be first and foremost. We should not sacrifice safety and efficacy. Otherwise, we run the risk of people refusing a COVID-19 vaccine out of fear,” Drilon said.
“While 50-percent efficacy meets the minimum requirement for vaccines, Sinovac’s reported 50-percent efficacy clearly pales in comparison with Pfizer and Moderna, and even AstraZeneca. I do not see how 50-percent efficacy can build public trust and confidence in vaccines,” he added. Manufacturers like Pfizer and AstraZeneca, the lawmaker pointed out, have higher efficacy rates and different cold storage requirements.
The Philippines expects a shipment of the Sinovac vaccine to arrive by March 2021.
Phase 3 trial data showed the COVID-19 vaccine of Pfizer and BioNTech had an efficacy rate of 95 percent while the counterpart by Moderna rated 94.1 percent. AstraZeneca’s vaccine, developed with researchers from Oxford University, scored 70 percent in efficacy.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which will determine whether a vaccine is up to standard, has said that Covid-19 vaccines need to be at least 60 to 70 percent effective to get approval. “Generally, that is the minimum requirement,” according to FDA Director General Eric Domingo. But of course, the higher [percentage of efficacy rate], the better,” he said. The World Health Organization (WHO) says the same thing.
Other countries are confident that the Chinese vaccines will help control the spread of the contagion.
Interim data from tests by Indonesia’s state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma showed that the vaccine developed by Sinovac is up to 97 percent effective. The Malaysian government is now in final negotiations with China-based manufacturers Sinovac and CanSino to secure doses of the vaccine to cover more of its population.
Bahrain has already approved the vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and launched online registration for the vaccine for citizens and residents.
Meantime, Turkey has already received its first shipment of China’s Sinovac vaccines as preliminary domestic tests showed it was 91 percent effective and no major side-effects were seen during trials, becoming the latest country to welcome Chinese scientific medical breakthroughs.
In Africa, Egypt received the first batch of the Chinese coronavirus vaccine on Dec 11 to help fight the COVID-19 epidemic.
Over in Brazil, the state-run Butantan Institute said recently the CoronaVac vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac achieved levels of efficacy against the coronavirus required by the World Health Organization in trials with 13,000 Brazilian volunteers. The data corroborated that the vaccine is “the safest on the market” and has achieved the superiority in efficacy required by the WHO and Brazil’s Health Regulatory Agency.
Mexico’s health regulator is now reviewing the coronavirus vaccine developed by China’s CanSino Biologics prior to approval of its application.
Lawmaker disputes corruption allegations
ACT-CIS Partylist Rep. Eric Yap, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, who was named by President Duterte among nine lawmakers involved in corruption included in a list furnished by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, has clarified that Duterte himself said that there was no solid evidence linking them to corruption nor were cases filed against them.
The lawmaker also vehemently denied allegations of corruption by PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica, who had alleged that he had taken undue interest in the bidding of public works projects in Benguet and intervened in the case of Ifugao District Engineer Lorna Ricardo before the Ombudsman.
The party-list lawmaker said be believes Belgica hurled corruption charges against him and other congressmen after employees of Duty-Free Philippines Corp. (DFPC) filed administrative and criminal complaints against the PACC official.;
Yap said he would ask Congress to look closely at alleged anomalies in DFPC to educate Belgica how to conduct a proper and fair investigation.