By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday warned that no single centavo will be spent on the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccine from Sinovac without satisfactory information device about its safety.
In a statement, Hontiveros insisted that a representative from Chinese-pharmaceutical Sinovac must be present at the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on the national vaccination plan on Friday.
“Hindi basta-basta bibitawan ng Senado ang P74 billion budget para sa bakuna. Hangga’t hindi humaharap sa amin ang Sinovac mismo, hangga’t kulang ang kanilang datos, the Senate, in conscience, should not allow a single peso to be spent on Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine, especially if they fail to satisfactorily present convincing information about its safety,” she said.
“We want to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth because so many of our questions remain unanswered: Bakit wala pang kumpletong datos? Bakit paiba-iba ang efficacy? Ano ang mga side effects? Magkano ba talaga ito? Paiba-iba ang mga sinasabi ng Palasyo at ng National Taskforce on COVID-19 (NTF). Yung pagme-med rep nila para sa Sinovac just makes us question the integrity of their statements. I want to hear from the pharmaceutical itself,” she stressed.
Hontiveros emphasized that Sinovac’s presence at the Senate hearings was ‘long overdue’, especially because of continuous concerns and confusion expressed by senators regarding the country’s deal with the pharmaceutical. She said she wants ‘official answers’ from Sinovac, so the Senate can fulfill its duty of protecting the budget it assigned for the national COVID-19 vaccination program.
“Naguguluhan lang tayong lahat dahil sa middlemen sa Palasyo. Dapat Sinovac na mismo ang magpaliwanag at sumagot sa napakaraming tanong. Hindi lang naman mga senador ang nagdududa, kundi pati ang taumbayan,” she said.
The senator added that reports of Sinovac’s alleged history of bribery could also be making it hard for the public to trust any transaction that happens behind closed doors. She said that all pharmaceuticals should bare all data about their vaccines to earn the people’s full trust and confidence, especially considering the record-breaking speed at which the COVID-19 vaccines were created.
“Hindi ito simpleng business deal lamang. Wag natin isugal ang pera at lalo na ang kaligtasan ng taumbayan. Kung bibili tayo ng Sinovac, patunayan nila mismo sa atin na worth our money and effort itong bakuna nila. Because right now, the Filipino people are not convinced, ” the senator concluded. (AI/MTVN)