Galvez says China's Sinovac 'quite cheap,' urges end to vaccine discrimination

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 13) — The Duterte administration does not prefer China-made vaccine Sinovac, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said on Wednesday, disputing criticisms of lawmakers that it is one of the most expensive in the market.

He said the Philippines secured the "best price" for CoronaVac made by Sinovac through the help of Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian.

"Napili ang Sinovac dahil medyo mura po ito... Kapresyo ang Novavax, Gamaleya. Nasa middle ang Sinovac. Mas mura siya kasya Moderna at ibang vaccines ng US. Very fair ang treatment namin sa Sinovac dahil binagsak niya [ang presyo]," he said in a media briefing.

[Translation: Sinovac was chosen because it is quite cheap. It's the same price as Novavax and Gamaleya. It's in the middle price point. It's cheaper than Moderna and other US-made vaccines. We are treating Sinovac fairly because they lowered the price.]

Based on data released by Senator Sonny Angara's office, Sinovac is the second most expensive COVID-19 vaccine at ₱3,629 for two required doses. Senator Panfilo Lacson questioned why the government seems to prioritize it despite the cost, its dismal efficacy rate in trials, and the absence of even an application for emergency use in the country. Senator Francis Pangilinan said Sinovac is six times more expensive than AstraZeneca when it has less than 60% efficacy compared to AstraZeneca's 70%, urging the government to cancel the purchase of 25 million doses.

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Bound by the nondisclosure agreement, Galvez did not reveal the price of Sinovac doses, and only said prices differ in the market compared to government-to-government deals.

Amid public worries on Sinovac's safety and efficacy, Galvez called on the people to stop discriminating since the vaccine is already offered in other countries.

"Sana tanggalin na po natin ang discrimination sa ibang vaccine kasi nakita natin ginamit na nga ng Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey, Argentina. Bakit hindi natin gamitin sa atin?" he asked.

[Translation: I hope we can stop the discrimination in other vaccines. We see it being used in Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey, Argentina. Why shouldn't we use it here]

The Philippines recently closed the deal to buy 25 million doses from Sinovac. The first batch, 50,000 doses, is set to arrive on February 20. Galvez said he is willing to get first crack at the vaccine to instill public confidence.

"Kahit anong vaccine ang mauna, ako, volunteer ako. Magpapabakuna ako," he said.

[Translation: Whichever vaccine arrives first, I will volunteer to be vaccinated.]