Senate COW eyes third hearing on PH COVID vaccine rollout

Published January 16, 2021, 4:59 PM

by Mario Casayuran

The Senate Committee of the Whole (COW) may call for a third public hearing on the planned roll out of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines by the Duterte administration to inoculate tens of millions of Filipinos as answers of key government officials to questions showed inconsistencies.

This planned call might be discussed by senators when they review next week the transcripts of the two-day in-person and virtual public hearings because only 50 percent of the questions fielded by senators were clearly explained, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said today during a DWIZ radio interview.

‘’There were many loose ends…hanging questions,’’ Lacson said.

He cited a government statement that there could be a discount for the shipment of 44 million doses of vaccines to the Philippines through the COVAX program by European countries and the World Health Organization (WHO).

It turned out that the vaccine shipment by COVAX is free, he said.

Lacson cited a query by Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, COW chairman, on the price per dose of AstraZeneca vaccine and the answer of businessman Joey Concepcion, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, is $5.

When Sotto asked vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. on the price of a Sinovac vaccine, Galvez’s answer is ‘’we are bound by Confidentiality Disclosure Agreement (CDA).’’

Despite a ‘’government to government’’ (G to G) policy in negotiating for the supply of vaccines, the national government is dealing with a ‘’Helen Yang’’ based in Hong Kong representing Sinovac, a private  Chinese pharmaceutical firm, and not with the Chinese government, Lacson pointed out.

Lacson also questioned the track record of Sinovac whose president allegedly bribed Chinese officials to get a certification for its vaccine product.

When asked by Sen.  Nancy Binay whether the National Task Force could still back out of its commitment with Sinovac, Galvez replied in the affirmative.

From a plate of seven foreign-made vaccines, senators were not comfortable with Sinovac because of its low efficacy rate and it is relatively expensive.

They fielded questions scrutinizing the ‘’seeming’’ preference of task force officials for Sinovac vaccines.

They also asked Galvez to explain why the government signed an agreement to secure 25 million doses of Sinovac’s vaccine, considering that its Phase 3 trials are still being consolidated and the company had yet to secure emergency use approval (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration.