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Friday, January 15, 2021

Vaccine procurement to be based on vaccine expert panel endorsement --- Galvez

PASAY CITY (15 JANUARY 2021)--- The selection, procurement and administration of COVID-19 vaccines in the country will strictly adhere to the government’s stringent protocols to ensure transparency and accountability, vaccine czar and National Task Force against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. assured lawmakers on Friday.

Galvez issued the statement during the second day of the Senate Committee of the Whole’s hearing on the national government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

“Only those vaccines endorsed by the vaccine expert panel will be purchased. Only those issued an EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) by FDA (Food and Drug Administration) will be administered. With regard to the prices of vaccines, we also want to assure the public that the negotiations will result in the best price available given our total volumes,” Galvez said.

The FDA granted Pfizer-BioNTech an EUA on Thursday, January 14. AstraZeneca, Sinovac and Gamaleya have also submitted their respective applications for EUA. 

According to the vaccine czar, the government’s “Whole-of-Nation Approach” will ensure that the government will be able to secure safe, effective and sufficient vaccine doses for all Filipinos.

“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. Pooling the demand enables us to negotiate [for] lower prices for larger orders,” Galvez said.

The national government, the private sector, and LGUs recently signed a tripartite deal with British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca also on Thursday, which secured 17 million vaccine doses for the country.

“We have been pursuing a portfolio strategy and are negotiating with seven vaccine manufacturers. These are the Serum Institute of India for Novavax, AstraZeneca of U.K., Pfizer of the U.S. and Germany, Janssen J&J of the U.S. and Belgium, Moderna of the U.S., Sinovac of China, and Gamaleya of Russia. This proves that we are not favoring any one particular brand or country,” Galvez said.

Meanwhile, vaccine expert Dr. Lulu Bravo emphasized the importance of vaccines in the ongoing battle versus the deadly COVID-19.

“We have this old adage that prevention is better than cure, and with vaccines, it is an investment in health. I’ve always taught our medical students and everybody else that a superior doctor prevents disease, and an inferior doctor treats disease,” Bravo said.

"We really need to rely on experts to tell us what to do next. The safety concern is paramount. We will not compromise the safety of our people. That is very important in vaccine development. Any vaccine that shows signs of safety concern is thrown away as soon as it is detected,” she added.

Bravo also explained the context behind the efficacy rates of vaccines, particularly Sinovac, which has a 50% efficacy rate.

“That 50% efficacy was actually set by WHO (World Health Organization) long before, in the beginning of the pandemic. They (WHO) even said that an efficacy of 50 to 70 percent would be already acceptable in the midst of a pandemic, because these efficacy rates needed to be put in place when you have a severe pandemic,” she said.

“When the incidence is so high, that 50% efficacy would really be good enough to have that kind of protection, because no protection of course, is worse than partial protection. I guess that would be a good efficacy rate should you be able to get that vaccine,” Bravo added. END