"What is so special about Sinovac?"
This is the question Senator Panfilo Lacson wants to pose before government officials in the Senate hearing on the government's COVID-19 vaccination rollout set on Monday.
In a Dobol B sa News TV interview, Lacson said he would want to inquire with concerned government officials why they seemed to be "dribbling" with Pfizer and Sinopharm when there have been earlier opportunities in the past to procure the vaccines they produced.
He recalled the incident where 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine could have been delivered to the Philippines as early as this month if Health Secretary Francisco Duque III had not failed to submit the required Confidentiality Disclosure Agreement (CDA).
He also mentioned another incident with China Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., the manufacturer of Sinopharm, which allegedly wrote to Duque in May 2020 to offer the conduct of clinical trials in the country, but the Health Secretary supposedly failed to respond right away.
"Gusto natin malaman, may hinihintay ba sila particular brand? Parang may announcement ngayon ang hinihintay ay Sinovac," Lacson said.
He pointed out that in terms of efficacy, Sinovac is at 50%, lower than Sinopharm's 79% and Pfizer's 95%. Sinovac was also reportedly more expensive than the two, he added.
"Ang tanong, ano ba ang special sa Sinovac? Bakit yun ang parang hinihintay natin? Dini-dribble natin yung iba?" Lacson asked.
"Maliwanag na naka-dribble ang Pfizer at naka-dribble din ang Sinopharm kasi sila yung mga nauna nang sumulat kay Secretary Duque. Ano talaga ang score?" he added.
Lacson believes that although there is a vaccine czar in the person of Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the liability would still fall on Duque as the Secretary of Health as the "overall" in charge of the country's health-based response to the pandemic.
Duque earlier defended himself on the Pfizer controversy and said that the DOH cannot sign the CDA on behalf of the national government, prompting him, the Department of Science and Technology, and Galvez to sign the CDA separately.
He also denied that he did not act on the supposed request of Sinopharm to conduct clinical trials for its vaccine in the country, saying he was not aware of any letter.
Lacson is expecting that Duque, Galvez, and officials from the Food and Drug Administration would testify on all these matters during the Senate hearing on Monday.
Meanwhile, Senator Francis Pangilinan, who filed a resolution calling for an inquiry into the COVID-19 vaccination program, said the hearing intends to clarify the government vaccination plan and deliverables.
“Parang nasa pressure cooker tayong lahat habang walang maayos na plano para masugpo ang Covid. Nag-bi-build up ang pressure dahil sa limitadong paggalaw na dikta ng mga quarantine restrictions. Marami nang kabuhayan ang nawala at mga negosyong nagsara," Pangilinan said in a statement.
"Deserve ng ating mga mamamayan malaman ang kongkreto at malinaw na plano ng pamahalaan para sa pag-roll-out ng vaccine," he added. — DVM, GMA News