Could someone have fed the Department of Health the obscenely high price for COVID vaccines from China-based Sinovac?
Sen. Panfilo Lacson asked this question Monday as he still could not quite accept Health Secretary Francisco Duque III that they “Googled” the price of Sinovac vaccines.
“Unverified reports that some shenanigans working behind the scene might have fed the DOH the unreasonably high price of the Sinovac vaccine could lend credence to the attempt to dupe the Filipino taxpayers even during a pandemic,” he said in a statement.
During the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole last Friday, Duque said the DOH got the price it gave to the Senate finance committee last year – P3,629.50 for two doses – following a Google search.
Lacson noted this is quite a far cry from the prices relayed to senators recently, and the P650-700 per dose price in Indonesia.
“As early as Oct. 14, 2020, it was reported that the price of Sinovac vaccines in Indonesia was about P683. There is also a price range of P650 to P700 per dose that was relayed to us. This is quite far from the P3,629.50 submitted by the DOH to the Senate finance committee in December last year for the 2021 budget deliberations,” Lacson said.
But Lacson also noted many senators also became suspicious when at the time vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. did not want to divulge prices of Sinovac vaccines, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. was holding a press briefing in Malacanang.
During that press briefing, Roque said the public cannot afford to be choosy and that only Sinovac would be available from February to June this year.
Meanwhile, Lacson said that while Senate President Vicente Sotto III may have a point in stating the benefits of allowing other countries to be ahead in the vaccination program, the Philippines also cannot afford to be too late in the vaccination rollout since it will adversely affect our economy.
“If we are late in inoculating our people, the economy will suffer. This is amid projections the Philippines will be the last to recover economically from the pandemic,” he said.