Vice President Leni Robredo said on Wednesday that she is not opposed to China’s Sinovac vaccine for COVID-19, but stressed that it should not be exempted from getting a positive recommendation from the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC).
The council assesses the cost, ethics, and community impact of the drugs or vaccines that will be given to the public.
“Wala akong opposition against Sinovac. Hindi ito dahil ginawa ito sa China, o dahil 50 percent [lang ang efficacy rate]. May medical experts naman na nagrereview. Kung sabihin nila na okay, good enough ‘yun para sa akin. Pero huwag naman i-short cut ang proseso (I am not opposed against Sinovac. This is not because it is from China or because it has only a 50-percent [efficacy rate]. Medical experts are reviewing it. If they said that it’s okay, that’s good enough for me. But the process should not be cut short),” Robredo said on The Mangahas Interviews.
The vice president questioned why Sinovac couldn’t go through the same process as Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca, which both got a positive recommendation from HTAC.
“Pero the mere fact na ine-exempt siya tapos iyong iba hindi naman ine-exempt, iyon ‘yung mali (The mere fact that it is exempted and the others are not exempted, that’s what’s wrong),” Robredo stressed.
Under the law, a drug or vaccine must get an approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), receive a positive recommendation from HTAC, and follow the guidelines by the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) and the Department of Health (DOH) before finally being distributed by local government units.
This is the same demand made by a group of health workers from the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) a few days before Sinovac arrived on February 28.
Although Sinovac’s vaccine received an emergency use authorization from the FDA, the agency did not recommend it for use on health workers with high exposure to the disease.
But the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) approved its use for health workers based on the recommendation by NITAG and DOH’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG).
This despite the lack of a positive recommendation from HTAC.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that Sinovac is already under HTAC review, but not before the department inoculated several health care workers and government officials since March 1.