Local governments free to choose own vaccine, says Duterte

THE NATIONAL Government won’t restrict mayors and governors in choosing a particular coronavirus vaccine for their people, President Rodrigo R. Duterte said on Wednesday night.

“You can choose any vaccine you like to buy,” he said at a televised meeting with Cabinet officials. “We don’t care which one you’ll choose,” he said in mixed English in Filipino.

Mr. Duterte had long shown preference for the vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and Russia’s Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology.

“If there is enough supply that can be bought outside of the government structure, that will be better,” he said. Mr. Duterte said all vaccines must be screened by regulators for safety.

Vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. earlier said the National Government would help local governments that can’t afford the vaccines.

He added that the central government would provide for health workers’ protective equipment and the cold chain facilities needed to store the vaccines.

During the Cabinet meeting, Mr. Duterte defended the government’s decision to acquire the vaccines developed by Sinovac despite the uncertainty over their efficacy.

Sinovac’s CoronaVac had been found to be 50.4% effective in Brazilian clinical trials, BBC News reported, citing the latest results released by researchers.

“The Chinese are bright, the Chinese are not lacking in brains,” Mr. Duterte said, adding that China was unlikely to produce unsafe vaccines.

The President, known for his strong ties with the Chinese government, said the Sinovac vaccine is as good as the ones developed by European and American drug makers. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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