By Macon Araneta

If the Senate hearings did not fully scrutinize China’s Sinovac vaccine, Sen. Panfilo Lacson on January 18 said there  could likely be “an overprice of the overpriced.”

“And assuming that the original price PHP3,629 or $38 for two doses of the vaccines or PHP1,814 equivalent to $19 per vaccination as against the $5 Thailand was charged, easily the price difference of 25 million doses would fetch US$350 million or PHP16.8 billion,” said Lacson.

Lacson quipped, “that’s  overpriced too much.” He was reacting to the pronouncement of Senate Minority Franklin Drilon on the PHP3,000 reduction of Sinovac according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque who announced two doses of the vaccine would only cost over PHP600.

In a privilege speech, Lacson also mentioned  Roque’s dismissal of the initially-released PHP3,600 price for two dosages of Sinovac as “fake news.” 

Early Monday morning, Lacson said Galvez clarified that the PHP3,629 price circulating on social media is that of Sinopharm and not Sinovac. 

“However, we must take note that Sen. Sonny Angara stated for the record last Friday that the vaccine prices released by his office late last year, which included the Sinovac price, and now going viral on social media, were furnished by the Department of Health (DOH) to the Senate Committee on Finance during the 2021 budget deliberations,” said Lacson. 

 “We dare ask: Are Sec. Roque and Sec. Galvez saying that (Health) Sec. Francisco Duque was the peddler of that fake news?”

According to Lacson, Sinovac was the best but the worst-defended among at least seven vaccine makes that the Philippine government is considering.

He said Galvez  and Duque were in chorus, claiming secureness in a Sinovac supply of 25 million doses. 

“They claimed that we ‘sealed the deal’ and have a ‘locked-in agreement’ with Sinovac and an initial 50,000 doses already available for delivery by February 20,” said Lacson.

Then, in a seemingly coordinated communication strategy, he stressed that Roque  was announcing in a press conference that Sinovac vaccines was the only vaccine available from February to June and Filipinos cannot be “choosy.” Either take Sinovac or wait until after June this year to be inoculated.

In a statement on October 14, 2020 by Indonesia’s state-owned pharmaceutical company PT Biopharma, it was confirmed by President and Director Honesti Basyir that they have sealed the deal with Sinovac Biotech at around 200,000 Indonesian Rupiah (US$13.57) or PHP683.30 per Sinovac dosage once it becomes available.

Even the Thailand government has been transparent in its negotiations with vaccine developers. Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced last week that their government is acquiring two million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Sinovac. 

Based on the infographics posted by the Bangkok Post, which had gone viral hours after it was released, Thailand was able to procure the Sinovac at $5 or PHP240 (P48:US$1) per dose.

Galvez quoted a Thai mayor who stated that they are “ready to spend 100 million baht to buy vaccines for 70,000 residents, if they receive permission to do so.” 

He said that from these figures, Thailand’s acquisition of the vaccine per dose would be $23.47.

“We pulled out the article to fact-check the validity of Sec. Galvez’s figures. Unfortunately, somebody must advise him to re-read and review the article carefully, to see that the mayor of Nakhon Yala was not referring to any particular brand of vaccine, much less Sinovac,” said Lacson.

He said Indonesia and Thailand were able to acquire the Sinovac at PHP683.30 and PHP240 per dose, respectively. 

“Will somebody explain the PHP1,814.75 per dose price of Sinovac vaccine, or PHP3,629 provided by the Department of Health to the Senate Committee on Finance during our budget deliberations late last year?” asked the senator.