Sotto on Duterte’s offer to give senators Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines: Thanks, but no thanks

Published January 19, 2021, 1:12 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Thanks, but no thanks.

This was the response of Senate President Vicente Sotto III to President Duterte who offered to give senators the vaccines of Pfizer-BioNTech following reports that several elderly people in Norway died after receiving the vaccine.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III
(Alex Nueva España / Senate PRIB / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Tell him ‘Thanks but, no thanks!’ I wonder what gave him the idea that the senators favor Pfizer?” Sotto told reporters in a message Tuesday when asked to comment about the Chief Executive’s statements.

In his speech Monday, Duterte scoffed at senators for being critical about his administration’s decision to choose Sinovac’s vaccines, perceiving it as a preference for the coronavirus vaccines developed by Pfizer.

He cited reports on the deaths of nursing home patients in Norway after they were injected with Pfizer’s vaccines, before saying: “Gusto ninyo? Mag-order kami para sa inyo. Iyon ang gusto ninyo paulit-ulit (You want Pfizer? We will order it for you. Since that’s what you want, and you have repeatedly said it).”

It has not been proven yet if Pfizer’s vaccines caused the deaths.
Sotto said the information given to Duterte was “wrong,” and denied that senators were specifically rooting for Pfizer’s vaccines in the country’s immunization against COVID-19.

“We do not! We favor any vaccine CORRECTLY PRICED! Properly procured [and] distributed!” Sotto wrote on Twitter later.

Hours before Duterte’s speech, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go told the Senate that the President was aware about what had transpired in the Committee of the Whole’s inquiry on the national vaccination plan.

“He said yes but apparently not!” Sotto lamented, recalling the former presidential aide’s assurance during their plenary session on Monday.

Sen. Joel Villanueva also defended the Senate’s hearings, saying the chamber only sought to ensure that the vaccines that will be purchased by the country will be effective, affordable, and delivered swiftly.

“When we finetune the plan, then we are not competing but  collaborating with the executive. When mistakes are corrected, the people win,” he said.

“Nakakalungkot lang pong makita na nabibigyan ng maling impormasyon ang ating Pangulo. Malinaw po at on record lahat ng ginagawa ng ating Senado (It’s just sad that the President is being given the wrong information. Everything that the Senate does is clear and is on record),” Villanueva. added.

Senators are questioning the government’s preference to buy Sinovac’s vaccines despite issues on its efficacy and cost.

The government already secured 25 million doses of the China-made vaccines, with an initial 50,000 set to arrive in the country next month.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, has yet to approve its vaccine for emergency use, unlike Pfizer’s which was already granted an emergency use authorization (EUA).

Implementers of the vaccination program also refused to divulge the vaccine prices, invoking the confidentiality clause in their initial supply contracts.

The Senate decided to hold another Committee of the Whole hearing on the government’s vaccination plans on Friday, January 22, so that its members could further inquire about the administration’s negotiations with vaccine makers, particularly with Sinovac.

“We will convene with our comm[ittee] hearing whatever. I don’t think the public will favor the idea of gov[ernmen]t not disclosing their actions re: [the] road map of [the] vaccination program,” Sotto told reporters.