(Updated 11:39 p.m.) Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday continued to defend the government’s purchase of China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine and claimed it is not more expensive than P700, contrary to the Senate report.
“Samantala, tiniyak din po ni Vaccine Czar at Secretary Carlito Galvez na ang presyo ng bakuna na ating kukunin sa vaccine manufacturers ay mas mababa sa prevailing market price. At ang kaniyang paglilinaw po ay hindi magkakalayo ang presyo ng bakunang Sinovac sa presyo na binili po ng Indonesia. Ito nga po ay mahigit-kumulang, uulitin ko po ‘no, mahigit-kumulang 650 pesos per dose at hindi naman po lalampas sa 700 pesos,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing.
Data presented by Senate Committee on Finance chair Sonny Angara revealed that the estimated cost of Sinovac vaccine in the Philippines is P3,629.50 per two doses or more than P1,800 per dose.
Palace made the comment amid the transparency concerns surrounding the varying prices of Sinovac’s jab in other countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.
On Sunday, Dr. Tony Leachon, former consultant of the National Task Force against COVID-19 called for transparency anew after vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, also the COVID-19 Chief Implementer, denied the corruption allegations in the coronavirus vaccine procurement.
Calls for transparency on vaccine deals
Concerned Filipinos last week questioned reports indicating that the projected cost of the Chinese-based Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine to be sold in the Philippines is higher than in Indonesia.
Leachon also then urged government officials to be more transparent with the vaccine prices.
In separate tweets on Monday, Leachon also questioned Galvez’s move to disclose Sinovac vaccine’s price during his interview with ANC but he failed to mention it under oath during the Senate hearing on vaccine plans last December.
Leachon recalled that Galvez previously claimed he was under a confidentiality disclosure agreement.
“But why did Sec Galvez reveal it now on TV if he was bound by CDA. It would be more powerful in senate under oath. This would dispel misinformation and fake news. We are all learning all of these information only now,” he wrote.
During his interview on ANC’s “Headstart,” Galvez denied a report of the Bangkok Post published January 16, suggesting that Sinovac is more expensive in the Philippines than in other countries.
The report titled “PM wants maximum jabs” is accompanied by infographic of vaccines prices.
“Real price of Sinovac is $23.745 per dose,” Galvez said. This is equivalent to P1,141.09 based on Google’s exchange rate feature. ($1 = PHP48.06)
Galvez also claimed that revealing the prices during the Senate hearing would have compromised the negotiations.
Leachon shared a screenshot of this Bangkok Post’s front page report Sunday and juxtaposed it to a screenshot of a social media card wherein Galvez first asserted that Sinovac is “cheaper” than other brands.
“Why is Sinovac cheaper in Indonesia and Thailand?” Leachon said.
Front page of Bangkok Post newspaper January 16, 2021.
Sinovac US$5 per dose vs Indonesia at US $ 17 vs Philippines of US $ 36
Why is Sinovac cheaper in Indonesia and Thailand ? pic.twitter.com/qW7KFax8MZ
— Tony Leachon MD (@DrTonyLeachon) January 16, 2021
In comparison with Galvez’s remark, Sinovac is still more affordable in Thailand at $5 or P240.28 and in Indonesia at the reported $13.57 or P652.12.
Recalling Roque’s statements
It was Roque who informed the public about the confidentiality agreement with Sinovac that Galvez had to abide to.
“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,” Roque said last week.
In another interview last Sunday, Roque also mentioned that Sinovac’s jab only costs around P650 per dose to counter Galvez’s later revelation and early reports telling that it costs P3,600 for two doses.
“What I can assure you is the claim that China is charging P3,600 per dose is fake news. While I cannot announce the price of Sinovac (vaccines), it’s not far from the price given to Indonesia, which is about P650 per dose,” Roque told radio station dzBB.
Roque also supposed that China’s close friendship with the Philippines was the main reason for the lower price tag.
“Ang presyo kasi ng Tsina, hindi gaya ng ibang kompanya na kapitalista na market dictated. Ang presyo ng Tsina puwede nilang baguhin. Wala silang pakialam, depende kung sino ang bibili,” the presidential spokesman said.
“Yun ang dahilan kung bakit ayaw ipa-anunsiyo mismo ng Tsina kasi nga baka magalit ‘yung hindi nila masyadong BFF na alam nilang bumili nang mas mahal,” he added.
What the DOH says
The Department of Health also reacted to the circulating vaccine prices and stressed that it only mentioned the published rates.
“Following the recent circulation of vaccine prices reported by the Senate to have come from the Department of Health, the DOH clarifies that the said vaccine prices were indicative market prices based on the rates published by different manufacturers generated for the purpose of estimating the proposed budget for the vaccination program,” the health agency said.
“These are not, in anyway, the negotiated prices that the government and the manufacturer agreed,” it added.
“The DOH urges the public to trust and respect the process that the country through vaccine czar Secretary Carilito Galvez, is undertaking to ensure that Filipinos are afforded the best vaccines at the most ideal prices,” the DOH further said.