Science, not politics, should rule Chinese vaccines donation — Pangilinan

Published January 17, 2021, 6:04 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said the government’s task force against the COVID-19 pandemic should not use political goodwill as basis for approving a vaccine in the fight against the coronavirus.

Senator Francis Pangilinan
(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Pangilinan made the remark following reports China will donate 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to help the government curb the rising cases of coronavirus disease cases in the Philippines.

“Ang sa akin naman, thank you, pero para sa akin, huwag yan dapat ang maging basehan ng pag-apruba (For me, thank you, but I believe that should not be the basis for the vaccines’ approval),” Pangilinan said in an interview over Radio DZBB.

“Dapat ang basehan ay science, findings ng mga experto kung mainam ba or hindi. Kasi kung ganun, magiging pasya eh, dahil lang sa donasyon, eh teka muna, di yan trial phase; political phase yan. (Science, the findings of experts on whether it is appropriate or not should be the basis of the approval of the vaccines. Because if that would decide to approve it because these are donations, then wait. That’s not a trial phase, that’s a political phase),” the opposition senator added.

“Di naman dapat politika ang nangingibabaw. Sabi ko nga kung hindi science –based at tatanggapin ang donasyon dahil sabi donated, eh parang pastillas (scam) yan. (Because if politics will prevail, as I said, not because it is science-based, and they will accept these vaccines because they said its donated, that is going to be like the pastillas scam),” he said, referring to the bribery scandal that hit immigration officials early last year.

Pangilinan said he believes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will go through all these donated vaccines, and decide not based just on goodwill, but on the efficacy and safety of the vaccines that would be used.

“Scientific evidence should be the only basis for the use of vaccines on Filipinos: while we appreciate the gesture, the donation of 500,000 Chinese vaccines should not pressure FDA and HTAC (Health Technology Assessment Council) to approve its use,” he said.

“Science, data, and the results of the clinical trials should be the basis and not ‘political goodwill’,” Pangilinan added.

In a statement read by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that China will donate 500,000 vaccine doses to the Philippines as both nations coordinate to curb the COVID-19 crisis, “in keeping with President Xi’s commitment to President Duterte.”

However, a DFA official said the Chinese government would be the one to choose the pharmaceutical firm for the donated vaccines.

During the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. has said that the Philippines has signed a term sheet with Sinovac and that the vaccines are expected to arrive in the country by February.

Galvez, later on, said the term sheet with Sinovac is not yet a done deal and that the national task force against COVID-19 will rely on the findings of the government’s vaccine expert panel (VEP) and the FDA and its issuance of an emergency use authority (EUA).