PH ‘keeps flirting’ with Chinese drug makers but ‘doesn’t commit’ — Lacson

 By Deighton Acuin

PHOTO: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Chinese ambassador to the Philippines has said the country ‘keeps flirting’ with Chinese drug makers but refuses to commit, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Monday as he criticized the government for taking “too long” for coronavirus vaccine purchase.

“In our recent dinner meeting with the Chinese ambassador. This was overheard, sabi niya, ‘Your officials’—the Philippine officials—‘keep flirting with us,’ referring to the vaccines. But ‘we need their commitment and they don’t want to commit,’” Lacson told government officials during the Senate’s inquiry into the country’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.

“So the allocations, yung stocks na dapat naka-allocate sa Pilipinas, ‘pag hindi kayo kumilos, we’ll just give it to other countries. That’s where we are, that’s our problem,” he added.

Before this, the lawmakers pressed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue emergency use authorization to several vaccine candidates which are approved in other nations.

Local governments already announced of setting aside funds for procuring vaccine to its constituents.

National Task Force against COVID-19 Deputy Chief Implementer Vince Dizon explained the “only way that a private company or an LGU can procure vaccines is through the government.”

He pointed out that authorizations being issued by the FDA is an emergency use authority only.

According to Dizon, a private company “cannot sell, on a commercial basis, it can only sell with the imprimatur of the government because the national government, through the FDA, issues an EUA.”

In response, Lacson said: “What’s taking the government too long to act? If other countries can, why can’t we?”

‘Unfair to say too long’

Dizon said it would be unfair to say that the government “taken too long” in vaccine procurements.

However, Lacson begged to differ, as he cited several instances for the government to act quickly.

He pointed out that in the case of the Pfizer deal, where Health Secretary Francisco III was accused of “dropping the ball” in the deal, it took the government 118 days or over four months to sign a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA).

“On June 24, Pfizer sent an overview of the candidate vaccine. Do you know how long it took us to just sign the CDA? [It’s] 118 days, four months. Now, if 25 to 26 deaths per day, and 1,300 infections per day, [kung] hindi urgent, I don’t know what is,” Lacson said.

The lawmaker also cited a letter from Sinopharm’s manufacturer to Duque dated May 26.

The Chinese manufacturer, in a letter, informed Duque that it will invite the country for the approval of conducting clinical trials in the Philippines.

The letter, presented by Lacson during the hearing, thanked Duque for the approval of Sinopharm’s participation in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials in the Philippines last May 22.

“Ten days. May 22…So it took us 10 days just to reply,” the senator said.

Sinopharm applied for late-stage trials but changed its mind and backed out from its plan.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) earlier said Sinopharm has yet to decide if it will pursue or not its trials in the country.

The government is looking to secure 148 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021. and inoculate at least 50 million Filipinos in 2021.

If global supply will be sufficient, the Philippines can achieve herd immunity this year, Duque said earlier in the hearing.

RELATED ARTICLE: Philippine Daily Inquirer

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