‘Health is our right,’ Robredo on public choice of COVID-19 vaccine

Published January 17, 2021, 12:16 PM

by Raymund Antonio

Vice President Leni Robredo said on Sunday Filipinos can choose which brand of coronavirus vaccine they want to receive simply because they have the right to do so.

Vice President Leni Robredo

“Our health is our right. This is not a privilege that will only be accessible to a few. We have the right to demand (for information) that will affect our health,” Robredo said on her Sunday radio show.

The vice president urged the government to address concerns about the efficacy and the prices of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Robredo said the people assigned to the procurement of the vaccines should disclose pertinent information that will instill confidence in the country’s vaccination program.

“The disclosure of the prices of the vaccine will help boost the people’s confidence in the program. This is not a take-it-or-leave-it deal. This is the way we can convince the people that inoculation of the vaccine is the way for us to go back to normal,” she said.

“If we are not going to exert any effort to tell the truth and address their concerns, this will not help in boosting their confidence,” Robredo explained.

Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. refused to reveal to senators the price by which the government is procuring the China-made Sinovac vaccines because of the non-disclosure agreement. He assured the chamber that Sinovac is cheaper than the ones offered by United States-produced vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna.

But in reports, Sinovac is said to cost P3,629.50 for two doses against Pfizer’s P2,379, Moderna’s P3,904 to 4,504, and AstraZeneca’s P610. This is a far cry from the Rp200,000 (P700) per dose that Indonesia paid for Sinovac.

Robredo clarified that she isn’t discriminating against the vaccine’s manufacturer, but just wants assurance of its efficacy and cost.

She argued that the public has the right to question the cost of the vaccines because the government is using the taxpayers’ money for their procurement.

It’s normal for the people to want to know about the vaccine’s efficacy rate since their health depends on it, Robredo said, adding that the government has an obligation to clarify these issues.

Pfizer has a reported 95% efficacy rate while Moderna has 94%. After two doses, AstraZeneca’s efficacy rate also jumps to 90%.

But what bothers a lot of Filipinos is the lower efficacy rate of Sinovac, the vaccine that’s scheduled to arrive in the Philippines next month. While some reports indicate the China-made vaccine also has an efficacy rate of 91%, others reported it could be only 78% or even around 50%.