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Galvez rejects quit call, cites efforts to bring vaccine prices down

MJ Blancaflor

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Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. on Thursday rejected calls for his resignation even as he admitted that he got hurt over accusations that there were alleged irregularities in the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

In a televised briefing, Galvez said critics should not cast judgment against him, noting that they are not privy to the “challenging” negotiations he had with manufacturers to bring down the prices of vaccine shots.

“I am respecting your opinion but sometimes, you are really hurting [our] feelings. You know nothing about the negotiations,” Galvez said in vernacular.

“Our negotiations are really challenging since we are appealing to make vaccines cheaper for the government,” he added.

He was particularly reacting on the call of Loretta Ann “Etta” Rosales, chair emeritus of Akbayan and former chief of the Commission on Human Rights, for his resignation over speculations surrounding vaccine deals.

“I am respecting your opinion, Ma’am Etta Rosales, because we know each other, but she should not have judged me,” Galvez said.

He earlier said the Philippines saved some US$700 million after negotiations with vaccine manufacturers led to the reduction of the offering prices by about half.

His refusal to disclose the negotiated prices of Covid-19 vaccines fueled speculations that corruption hiked the prices of jabs.

It did not help that the government appeared to be favoring vaccines manufactured by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd., which was said to be among the most expensive vaccines of all the six brands eyed by the government for purchase — despite its confusing efficacy rates.

Data from Sinovac’s Phase 3 trials conducted in Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, and China have shown four different efficacy results, ranging from 50.4 percent to 90 percent, raising questions on its potency.

The vaccine czar, for his part, has repeatedly explained that the government cannot disclose yet the exact prices of vaccines since authorities have signed non-disclosure deals with firms.

Violating the agreements will make the Philippines risk losing the 148 million doses that it plans to buy and might trigger a legal suit, Galvez said.

He added that the government will disclose the costs of Covid-19 vaccines purchased by the Philippines after negotiations are done and after deals are finalized.

Galvez, along with the health department, later explained that the supposed cost of Sinovac’s vaccines was only an indicative market price generated for the purpose of estimating the proposed budget for the country’s immunization program against Covid-19.

The health department further said that this price is different from the “negotiated” cost that the government and the manufacturer agreed on.

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