Are government officials lying about the real prices of COVID-19 vaccines?
Senator Grace Poe posed this question as the Senate Committee of the Whole resumed Friday its inquiry on the government’s national vaccination program.
During the hearing, Poe asked vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. if he “was lying to the public” in refusing to disclose the actual price of the coronavirus vaccines that the government plans to procure from pharmaceutical firms, particularly from Sinovac Biotech.
Before this, she noted that despite repeatedly invoking the confidentiality deals with the vaccine makers, Galvez and Presidential spokesman Harry Roque had mentioned that Sinovac’s Coronavac was priced about P650 per dose and will not exceed P700.
“Kung meron tayong NDA talaga, bakit nabanggit ‘yong mga ‘yon (If we really have non-disclosure agreements, then why did we mention those figures)?” Poe said.
Galvez explained that the said amount was only the indicative cost of the China-made vaccine and not its actual price, which he maintained cannot be disclosed to the public.
“So sinasabi ninyo na hindi niyo sinasabi sa publiko ‘yong tunay na presyo (you are saying that you are not disclosing to public the real prices?)” Poe said.
“Yes po, because we will be charged of the violation of the NDA and once we are proven specifically stating the exact price or the volume, the contract will be terminated,” Galvez responded.
Poe insisted: “Basically you don’t want to divulge the price, so you’re lying to the public?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Galvez answered.
The National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementers said the actual prices of the vaccines are covered by the confidentiality agreement required by drug makers from the government as negotiations are also ongoing in other countries.
“Because if the other countries will know the price, and there also some instances that poor countries like us are being given special prices. So they don’t want to compromise the prices on the negotiating table,” he said.
When Poe said she found Galvez’ response “a little discomforting”, Galvez quickly clarified that he was not confirming lying to the people, and that he only meant that he was giving the indicative price of Sinovac’s vaccine to allay doubts on their negotiations.
“I am not lying to the public consideerng that I am saying that, in order to correct the impression of the public that we are dong an overpricing, we are saying the indicative price of not more than P700,” he said.
“I’m just saying that the prices that have been published in the newspapers [are] incorrect, considering it is not the real negotiated price. That’s the market price. There is a difference between the published market price and the negotiated price,” he continued.
“The negotiated price are being kept secret considering that it might compromise the negotiations of the other companies,” Galvez told Poe.
Earlier, he assured senators that there will be no overpricing of the coronavirus vaccines that the government will acquire.
During the hearing, Galvez also promised to to divulge to them the actual prices of he vaccines “in due time”, after the supply deals have been signed.