Gov’t verifying bribery claim vs Chinese vaccine maker

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    HEALTH Secretary Francisco Duque III yesterday said government is looking into reports linking the Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech Ltd. to bribery.

    The Philippines is eyeing to procure some 50 million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccines, and is expecting to receive the vaccines by the first quarter of 2021.

    A December 4 report of the Washington Post raised doubts about the safety of Sinovac products as it said the Chinese firm had been found to have a record of bribing Chinese drug regulators to secure vaccine approvals, Duque said

    “This will form part of the work of the VEP (vaccine experts panel) in assessing the veracity of such a report,” Duque said, referring to one of three bodies that vaccine makers have to pass through in the Philippines.

    “We cannot discount the possibility that such reports may have questionable sources.

    Therefore, the prudent thing is to validate,” he also said.

    Duque gave the assurance that all COVID-19 candidate vaccines will undergo stringent screening from the different regulatory panels.

    “This will include all the information that we get from the news reports,” added Duque.
    Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said he is willing to be inoculated with the Sinovac vaccine, if only to prove that it is safe.

    In an interview with ANC, he reaffirmed that the Sinovac vaccine from China is likely to be the first to be rolled out in the country by the first quarter of 2021 to be followed by Sputnik from Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.

    “I was briefed by the vaccine experts panel and also the DOST (Department of Science and Technology) and based on their evaluation, Sinovac’s and the Chinese vaccines are safe because it comes from the inactivated virus platform,” he said.

    He noted Sinovac’s vaccine has been approved for emergency use by Chinese frontliners and armed forces, and has been rolled out in Indonesia.

    Galvez reiterated the Sinovac vaccine would be available in the country some 60 days to 90 days after the Philippines signs a “consummation of contract” sometime this month.

    “Most likely we can have it in March,” he said.

    Galvez said the Russians had also committed to distribute the Gamaleya-made vaccine, and even manufacture in the Philippines, by the first quarter of 2021 if an agreement is signed this month.

    As for other vaccines, Galvez said those produced by Pfizer and BioNTech may be rolled out by the second or third quarter of 2021.

    He said most of the supply from Pfizer and AstraZeneca has been reserved by rich countries.

    He said countries like Australia, which have reserved vaccines in excess of their population, promised to assist the country in accessing the vaccines. — With Jocelyn Montemayor