Philippines prefers Chinese COVID-19 vaccines, calling them 'safe, sure and secure'

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People wearing protective masks wait for COVID-19 swab collection at the Philippine Red Cross in Manila, the Philippines, Jan. 12, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has defended the purchase of the COVID-19 vaccines developed by Chinese makers, saying the Chinese vaccines are "safe, sure, and secure."

In a taped public address aired late Wednesday night, Duterte said the vaccines produced by China are as good as those made by U.S. and European pharmaceutical firms.

"The Chinese did not fall short in producing the vaccine. They are not stupid. The Chinese are bright, and they would not venture into vaccine production if they know those will not be safe, sure and secure," Duterte said.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque echoed Duterte's statement, saying that he also prefers the Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm inactivated vaccines.

Inactivated is safe because the inactivated technology has been in use for hundreds of years. "So, if I could, I will choose the two Chinese brands because they are inactivated vaccines," he told an online briefing on Thursday.

Roque said he would go with the statement of vaccine expert Lulu Bravo, the executive director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination.

Bravo, a resource person during an online briefing hosted by Roque on Tuesday, said Sinovac took the traditional method of developing vaccines by using killed viral particles to expose the body's immune system to the virus. She added that an inactivated vaccine, like that of Sinovac, is much safer.

"That has already been proven time and again. When it comes to safety, the inactivated has a better record for safety instead of the live virus," Bravo said.

Sinovac is seeking an emergency use authorization (EUA) for its CoronaVac vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Philippines, FDA Director General Enrique Domingo said on Thursday, adding a pre-assessment of its EUA application is "ongoing."

The Philippines has secured 25 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by China's Sinovac Biotech, with the first 50,000 expected to arrive in February. The rest of the vaccines will be delivered in tranches from March until December this year.

Carlito Galvez, the official in charge of the vaccine procurement, said the initial 50,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines will be administered to health workers and other priority groups in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the outbreak.

The Philippines is in talks with at least seven vaccine makers to procure 148 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines this year.

It aims to vaccinate 50 to 70 million people, or more than 60 percent of the total population this year, to achieve herd immunity.

The Philippines now has 492,700 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 9,699 deaths.

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