MANILA – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Friday said there is no favoritism in the government’s decisions to determine what candidate vaccine would be approved first.
“Unang-una, wala tayong kinikilingan na bakuna rito, wala tayong mga favorites dito. Gaya ng sinabi ko, dadaan po ito sa talagang mahigpit na evaluation (First and foremost, we’re not siding on a specific vaccine, there are no favorites here. Like what I said, there is a strict evaluation),” he said in a virtual conference.
Duque said all candidate vaccines are carefully evaluated by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Vaccine Expert Panel and the Single Joint Ethics Review Board.
“Kung titignan niyo po, ang mga taong namumuno sa mga naturang regulatory bodies, sila ay mga taong of unassailable integrity, probity, and competence… Ang mga bumubuo ng ating vaccine expert review panel ay talagang mga experts (If you will look at the leaders of our regulatory bodies, they are persons of unassailable integrity, probity, and competence… The ones who make up out vaccine expert review panel are certainly experts),” he said.
The clarification came amid allegations that Manila is favoring China’s Sinovac after an initial Pfizer deal that could have secured the country some 10 million doses at an earlier date did not push through.
But Duque maintained that the DOH acted with urgency in accordance with systems and protocols in place to avoid getting onerous deals as it continues negotiations with Pfizer.
“Wala pong katotohanan na somebody dropped the ball. Ang katotohanan po diyan, patuloy ang ating negosasyon ngayon (There is no truth that somebody dropped the ball. The truth there is that the negotiation is ongoing,” he said, adding Manila is also in talks with different vaccine developers.
He stood firm that while the DOH wants to expedite the process, it cannot cut corners.
“We cannot be imprudent, we cannot be restless, we cannot be rushing things because we have to be very careful,” he said.
Duque said the government must ensure the deal would not be “disadvantageous” to the government and the nation.
“Maigi na po ‘yong nakakasiguro tayo dahil unang una buhay ng tao… Ang ating tuturukan (ay) malaking bilang, (It’s better that we’re sure because we are dealing with human life… We are expected to inoculate a huge number of people and) for the first time, this is going to be the biggest national immunization rollout so kinakailangan batay sa mga leksyon na natutunan natin (it needs to be based on the lessons we learned),” he added. (PNA)