Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should look into the reported deaths of elderly patients who had received the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in Norway.
Drilon said this is to ensure the confidence of the Filipino people on the COVID-19 vaccines, not just the Sinovac vaccines, that would be procured by the government for its mass vaccination program.
“To me, the issue is the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. That is why, the FDA should look at these reports of the deaths allegedly caused by the Pfizer vaccine,” Drilon said in an interview on CNN’s The Source.
“That is what we have to confront today. Again, the gold standards should be safety and efficacy,” the minority leader said.
Drilon made the statement after President Duterte scorned senators who are questioning the government’s procurement of China-made vaccines over Pfizer, which has a higher efficacy rate compared to Sinovac.
Pfizer has already secured an emergency use authorization (EUA) in the Philippines but health officials said they will wait for the pharmaceutical giant’s report regarding the reported deaths in Norway.
Drilon said the Senate Committee of the Whole’s continuation of inquiry into the government’s vaccination program should focus not only on the issue of the pricing of the Sinovac vaccines and other shots, but also on how to boost Filipinos’ confidence in the vaccination program.
“To me, the primary issue here is the confidence of the people in the vaccine to arrest the pandemic. Not any particular vaccine, but vaccination in general to prevent the pandemic,” he said.
The senator cited the Pulse Asia survey which indicated that 47 percent of the public would not want to be vaccinated.
“Given all of these issues, including the deaths of some in other countries who were vaccinated, the gold standard, apart from the pricing, the most important standard, is the safety and efficacy of the vaccine as a means of stopping the pandemic,” he said.
“Inevitably, however, the price will be discussed because these are public funds,” he added.
The former justice secretary said the different price ranges being quoted by the chief implementers of the national task force against COVID-19 is generating questions of trust.
“I would repeat, this does not augur well for the government’s ability to enhance the trust rating of vaccines as a means to stop the pandemic because of questions of pricing,” he said.
He said vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. and other leaders of the task force should reveal the terms of the supply agreement that have already been agreed upon by the government with China’s Sinovac in the Senate hearing.
“I do not know but it is not too late. I do not know why it wasn’t mentioned earlier, but it is not too late in order to put this issue to rest and augment the people’s trust in vaccines,” he said.
“To me, the gold standards should be safety and efficacy. That includes every vaccine that is on the table—Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, etc.—That should apply to all. The issue of the pricing is an issue that goes into, as I said, the confidence of the people in the process,” Drilon said.