With the belief that the Chinese are “bright,” President Duterte is confident that coronavirus vaccines developed by the Asian neighbor are as good as the vaccines developed by western pharmaceutical firms.
The President tried to allay concerns about the government’s purchase of Chinese-made vaccines, assuring the public that vaccine czar Carlito Galvez would only secure supplies that are considered safe and effective.
The government earlier secured 25 million doses of vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, in addition to the 30 million Covovax doses developed by Serum Institute of India. An additional 20 million coronavirus vaccine doses from UK’s AstraZeneca will be finalized in a deal this week.
“The bakuna that Secretary Galvez is buying is as good as any other bakuna na naimbento ng mga Amerikano o mga Europeans. Hindi nagkulang ang Chinese, hindi sila nagkulang sa utak. Bright itong mga Intsik. (The vaccine that Secretary Galvez is buying is as good as any other vaccine invented by the Americans or Europeans. The Chinese do not lack brains. The Chinese are bright),” Duterte said during a televised address Wednesday night.
Duterte also voiced confidence in the capacity of Galvez, the government’s vaccine czar, in the purchase of vaccines, saying he would take responsibility for the acquisition of the drug.
“They would not venture if it is not safe, sure, and secure. Iyong tatlo (Those three): it must be safe; sigurado, sure; and secure. That is the guarantee,” he said.
“Ako, kung ano ang piliin ni Secretary Galvez would bind me. Parang ako na rin ang bumili ng bakuna. So hindi ako magbili ng bakuna na hindi tama. (Whatever Secretary Galvez chooses to buy would bind me. It’s as if I was the one who bought the vaccines. So I would not buy a vaccine that’s not good),” he said.
The President said there would be “no problem” if a person on the priority list would decline the free vaccine from the government. He said this would mean more supplies for people who want to be inoculated against the illness.
Duterte however assured the public that the coronavirus vaccines are actually made equal.
“Kung kayong walang pera at gusto ninyo ng bakuna na mas maganda, mas mabisa, wala, tabla lahat ‘yan. Pareho lang ang pinag-aralan nila. (If you don’t have money and you want a better vaccine, a more effective, there’s none. They’re all equal. They made the same study),” he said.
“The same microbes ang pinag-aralan nila so kanya-kanya ‘yan. It doesn’t mean to say that the Americans or the Europeans, the EU, are better than the Chinese,” he added.
The vaccines made by Sinovac have drawn scrutiny for allegedly low efficacy rate and high cost compared to other vaccines. Researchers from Brazil reportedly disclosed such vaccine was 50.4 percent effective at preventing COVID infections during trials. Sinovac however insisted that the vaccine is highly effective.
With the vaccine acquisition efforts being scaled up this year, the government aims to vaccinate 70 million Filipinos to attain herd immunity. Some of the vaccines would be purchased by the local government units and the private sector under a tripartite arrangement with the national government.
Under the government’s vaccination plan, health workers, senior citizens, indigent population, and uniformed personnel will be given priority for the free vaccines.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque earlier said people cannot be choosy with the vaccines since these are free and that many people would want to be inoculated against COVID-19. If a beneficiary declines the free vaccine, the person would be put at the end of the line to wait for his or her turn.