Despite choosing what brand of coronavirus disease jab he should get earlier, President Duterte said Filipinos should not discriminate against the vaccine brands as he noted that most are waiting for the United States’ Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which have the highest efficacy rate among all vaccines available in the market.
The Chief Executive warned that he already ordered vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. to distribute the vaccines to different municipalities “with a blind eye.”
“Masangsang sa dila ‘yan pero karamihan iyong meron, naghihintay ng mga US—Moderna, Pfizer. Sabi ko hindi mangyari ‘yan.(It leaves a bad taste in the mouth but a lot are waiting for the US–Moderna, Pfizer. I said that will not happen),” he said during the second part of his prerecorded public address aired on May 18, Tuesday.
Duterte himself chose a brand of vaccine—the Sinopharm vaccine developed by Beijing Biological Products Institute under state-owned China National Biotec Group (CNBG)—despite it having only a compassionate use permit from the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
But on Tuesday, Duterte argued that all vaccines “are the same” since “they are all potent, they are all effective.”
“So, there is no reason for you really to be choosy about it,” he said.
“The only reason is ayaw ko magkaroon ng istorya na may pinapaboran kami dito. Wala. Hindi ako papayag na magpili-pili. Kung ano iyong nasa harap mo iyon na. Pareho lang iyan lahat (The only reason is I don’t want to have a story that we’re favoring a brand here. There’s nothing. I will not allow you to be choosy. What’s in front of you, that’s it. It’s all the same),” the President added.
So far, the Philippines mostly have Chinese-made Sinovac doses, as well as a handful of doses of the United Kingdom’s Astrazeneca, Russia’s Sputnik V, and the United States’ Pfizer-BioNTech.
The Philippines also signed a renegotiated agreement to procure some 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which has an efficacy rate of 95 percent against symptoms seven days after the second dose. Along with Moderna, it is considered to be the gold standard in COVID-19 vaccines.
Even the World Health Organization (WHO) said that vaccine confidence will improve in the Philippines once Pfizer’s vaccines start to arrive.
Questions on the efficacy rate of China’s vaccines have been raised because of the lack of available data on Sinovac’s clinical phase 3 trials. Even the Chinese government once ordered 100 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech.
Duterte stressed that “there will be no discrimination” in the Philippines’ vaccination rollout.
“Kung mahirap ka man o mayaman kung gusto mo pumunta ka dun sa (Whether you are poor or rich, if you like to go there to the) vaccination site if you are there in that community, go there and have yourself vaccinated by any of the vaccines available,” he said.
The President always maintained that he has a neutral foreign policy, wherein the Philippines is seen moving away from a pro-United States stand. Duterte, however, has remained largely friendly with China, including in issues concerning the COVID-19 vaccines.