The Philippines has signed an agreement for 25 million doses of CoronaVac, the coronavirus vaccine of Chinese firm Sinovac.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr confirmed this in a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, January 13.
"They gave a commitment, and I signed the term sheet and had a copy of the signed term sheet for 25 million [doses] sent to Hong Kong," he said in Filipino.
An initial batch of 50,000 doses is expected to arrive in the country on February 20, to be followed by 950,000 more doses in March.
Galvez praised Sinovac for being the "only" vaccine maker to give definite monthly delivery dates for its doses.
The signing of the term sheet adds to the Philippines' list of agreements, locking in millions of the sought-after jabs for Filipinos.
Previously signed were deals for 30 million doses of the vaccine of US firm Novavax and 15 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through tripartite agreements with local governments and private corporations.
However, the Food and Drug Administration is yet to approve any vaccine for emergency use. Of the 3 vaccines secured through signed deals, only AstraZeneca has applied for emergency use approval as of writing.
In the same meeting, Duterte defended Chinese-made vaccines, claiming they are every bit as reliable as Western ones.
"It's as good as any other bakuna na na-imbento ng mga Amerikano or mga Europeans. Hindi nag-kulang ang Chinese, hindi sila nagkulang sa utak," said the Philippine leader.
(It's as good as vaccines invented by the Americans or Europeans. These Chinese don't lack in brains.)
"Kung kayong walang pera at gusto ninyo ng bakuna na mas maganda, mas mabisa, wala, tabla lahat ‘yan. Pareho lang ang pinag-aralan nila," Duterte also said.
(If you don't have money and you want a vaccine that is better, more effective, that's nothing, all of them are equal. They all have the same expertise.)
The Sinovac vaccine, however, has raised eyebrows for producing very different efficacy rates across various clinical trial sites.
In Brazil, where Sinovac's biggest clinical trial is being conducted, the vaccine was initially said to be 78% effective in preventing mild cases of COVID-19 and 100% effective in preventing severe infections. But new data showed that the overall efficacy rate is 50.38%.
Sinovac has also published less clinical trial data compared to Western vaccine makers. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.