Sinovac price difference between Indonesia, Philippines triggers demand for cost transparency

January 15, 2021 - 11:50 AM
A nurse prepares a dose of the Sinovac's CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine at the Sancaktepe Sehit Dr. Ilhan Varank Training and Research Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey January 14, 2021. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)

(Updated 12:22 p.m.) The cost of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine or CoronaVac is cheaper in Indonesia than its estimated and reported cost in the Philippines, according a report of The Jakarta Post.

Sinovac prices in Indonesia vs the Philippines

In a tweet, Dr. Peter Cayton from the University of the Philippines Pandemic Response Team questioned why the Sinovac’s vaccine will be reportedly sold at a higher price in the country.

Cayton also attached the link of The Jakarta Post article which was published last October 14.

“Bakit sa atin, Php 3,629.50?” Cayton wrote.

Twitter user Faith Francisco voiced out the same concern and similarly shared the screenshot of The Jakarta Post report.

“We need to get serious answers to this quagmire folks, sobra na ang panloloko sa atin,” the user said.

In the report, Indonesian-owned pharmaceutical firm PT Bio Farma announced that the Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine will be priced at Rp 200,000 or $13.57 per dosage.

This is estimated at P651.98 based on Google’s currency exchange rate feature. (PHP1 = Rp 292.55)

In the report, Bio Farma president director Honesti Basyir was quoted as saying that Sinovac BioTech directly emailed them the price of the vaccine.

“Bio Farma is committed to supporting the government’s efforts to provide an affordable COVID-19 vaccine to protect Indonesians,” Honesti said that time.

Indonesia has one of the highest infections of COVID-19 across Southeast Asia with 869,600 confirmed cases, according to Worldometers, as of January 15. It recorded 711,205 recoveries and 25,246 deaths.

On the other hand, the Philippines has a total of 494,605 COVID-19 cases as of January 14. Its recoveries stand at 459,252 while the death toll stands at 9,739.

Meanwhile, according to the data presented by Senate Committee on Finance chair Sonny Angara, the estimated cost of Sinovac in the Philippines is P3,629.50 per two doses.

It is considered the second most expensive brand of the seven manufacturers the government is in negotiations with.

The priciest vaccine is from US-based Moderna which reportedly costs between P3,904 and P4,504.

The projected price was calculated including the value-added taxes and the cost of inflation.

Of the seven companies, only Pfizer-BioNTech was authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration.

READ: FDA OKs Pfizer vaccine for emergency use as nat’l gov’t pushes for Sinovac

Sinovac, AstraZeneca from the United Kingdom, which some local governments have inked deals with, and Russia’s Gamaleya are also seeking emergency use approval before the FDA.

A call for transparency

Amid the questions on the price difference between the Sinovac vaccine in Indonesia and the Philippines, questions on transparency were also raised online after presidential spokesperson Harry Roque claimed that the costs of the Sinovac vaccine are under a “confidentiality clause.”

“Alam ninyo po, ang problema talaga ni Sec. Galvez at kaya naman hindi nasasagot nang lantaran iyong mga tanong ay may mga confidentiality clause po talaga iyan. At parating na po ngayon si Sec. Galvez dito sa ating pagpupulong ‘no. Kasama po sa mga considered as confidential information iyong halaga at iyong quantity. Iyan po talaga ang limitation ni Secretary Galvez,” he said.

Roque, however, said that Sinovac is not the most expensive vaccine.

“I am not at liberty, pero I can say, sa lahat po ng oorderin natin, hindi po pinakamahal ang Sinovac. Alam ninyo kasi ang Tsina, hindi po iyan kapitalistang bansa, komunista iyan. So their prices are not driven by market forces, pupuwede silang unilaterally mag-fix ng price, at I can assure you, nabigyan po tayo ng presyo na ukol lamang sa kanilang BFF,” the presidential spokesman said.

“Hindi po pinakamahal ang Sinovac, paninira lang po ng oposisyon iyan. In fact, hindi rin po siyang pangalawang pinakamahal na bakuna na aangkatin natin. Kung hindi po ako nagkakamali, pangatlong pinakamahal lang po siya out of six brands – so, it is in the mid-range. So, wala pong katuturan iyang mga nginangawa ng mga kritiko na nakapamahal daw ng  Sinovac,” he added.

Dr. Tony Leachon, former consultant of the National Task Force against COVID-19, questioned these remarks and urged the government to be more transparent with the vaccine costs.

“Is it cheaper than the more efficacious vaccines like Pfizer or Astra? I think the public has the right to know,” Leachon said.