For China’s donation of 600,000 doses of their Sinovac vaccine, President Duterte thanked the Chinese government and people. At P680 a dose, the P408,000,000 cargo filled eight freezer vans, the first three of which moved ever so gingerly from Villamor Air Base to Marikina, a two-hour trip despite the Sunday night traffic and police escorts. Not to be shaken nor stirred, the tiny vials packed in crates in sub-zero temperatures arrived to a no-frills welcome by the President and Chinese Ambassador Huang Xi Lian.
Also on hand were our Malacañang reporters, whose questions ranged from politics (Sara and the presidency) to futuristic (when will life return to normal?) and, naturally, to Sinovac efficacy. The vaccine has been getting a bad press, especially after the Food and Drug Administration cautioned against using it on health workers.
The basis for the warning was presumably Brazil’s experience of a 50 percent efficacy after the vaccine was administered to health workers. In other countries where larger segments of the population were jabbed with the same Sinovac, the results showed efficacy rates of up to 94 percent. In addition, Sinovac joins American and UK-made vaccines with 100 percent efficacy on patients with severe COVID-19.
Between the lines was the unspoken question of what China expects in return for the donation, marked CHINA AID. “Walang hinihingi ang China,” PRRD said. China does not ask for anything. “China has good spirit, the people are kind, the government, they have great respect and love for mankind.”
The vaccine is here, a beacon of hope, but it is obvious that its provenance has been turned into a p.r. problem.
Not only were the life-saving drugs given without cost, they were flown in free of charge by a Chinese military plane, contrary to the usual donor-donee protocol. “Xie xie,” the President said to Ambassador Huang. “A debt of gratitude should be paid by a personal visit.” Good p.r.
The Manila-based Chinese correspondent for a Chinese network asked which city he would like to visit on his next trip. Xiamen, Mr. Duterte replied without blinking, because they have named a school there after his mother, Soledad. In 1950, when his family migrated to Davao, her first job there was to teach in a Chinese school.