Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday said officials from Sinovac Biotech should appear before the Senate’s Committee of the Whole and answer queries on the efficacy of their COVID-19 vaccine when the panel resumes its hearing on the national government’s vaccination plan on Friday, Jan. 22.
Hontiveros said a representative from the Chinese pharmaceutical company must be present at the Senate’s hearing.
“The Senate, in conscience, should not allow a single peso to be spent on Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine, especially if they fail to satisfactorily present convincing information about its safety,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
“We want to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth because so many of our questions remain unanswered: Why is it that until now they do not have any complete data? Why does its efficacy vary? What are the side effects of the vaccines? How much does it really cost?” she said.
“Palace officials and the national task force on COVID-19 are giving different statements. Their attempts to take up the role of a medical representative for Sinovac just makes us question the integrity of their statements. I want to hear from the pharmaceutical (firm) itself,” she said.
Hontiveros said the presence of Sinovac officials at Senate hearings was “long overdue.” It’s officials should be able to answer the continuing questions and concerns regarding the government’s dealings with the pharmaceutical company so the Senate can fulfill its duty of protecting the budget it assigned for the national vaccination program.
She added that reports of Sinovac’s alleged history of bribery could also be making it hard for the public to trust any transaction that happens behind closed doors.
The senator stressed that all pharmaceutical companies should bare all data about their vaccines to earn the peoples’ trust and confidence, considering the record-breaking speed at which these coronavirus vaccines were created.
“This is not a simple business deal. Let’s not gamble money and especially the lives of our people,” she pointed out.
“If we are going to buy Sinovac, they should prove to us that the vaccines are worth our money and effort to procure it. Because right now, the Filipino people are not convinced,” she said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III had earlier confirmed that he and some senators have already met with vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. to see all the necessary documents and proposed agreements in relation to the procurement of Sinovac vaccines which senators have been skeptical about.
Sotto said there are indeed non-disclosure agreements mandated by the pharmaceutical companies internationally. Galvez, he said, also assured them that there would be no room for overpricing by any person, entity or group during the procurement as all payments would go directly to the pharmaceutical companies from the lending institutions who will also set in place proper safeguards.
But despite Galvez’s disclosure, Sotto said the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing will still push through with its hearing on Friday to be able to elicit sufficient information that would convince Filipinos to accept the vaccines no matter what brand, so that the country can successfully defeat COVID-19.