Vice President Leni Robredo wants Sinovac’s CoronaVac to go through the proper process of receiving a positive recommendation from the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) before the government begins its rollout.

The HTAC assesses all available vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and crafts recommendations to the Department of Health (DOH) as to which vaccines are most responsive, safe, and cost-effective for the people. 

Speaking on her Sunday radio show, Robredo made clear that she wasn’t trying to question the efficacy of China’s Sinovac vaccine, which is being used in other Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia. 

The vice president wants the vaccine instead to go through the proper process of getting approved by the FDA, receiving a positive recommendation from HTAC, and follow the guidelines by the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAC) and DOH before finally being distributed by the local government units (LGUs).

“Hindi pino-protesta kasi galing ang bakuna sa China. Pinoprotesta kasi itong Sinovac mayroon proseso hindi pa dinadaanan dito sa atin (It is being protested not because the vaccine is from China. There is a protest because Sinovac skipped a process here),” she said. 

Robredo was referring to the protest by health care workers from the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), the country’s leading facility that handles COVID-19 cases, and other groups of health professionals.

Although Sinovac’s vaccine received an emergency use authorization from the FDA a week ago, the agency did not recommend it for use on health workers with high exposure to the disease.

But the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) approved its use for health workers based on the recommendation by NITAC and DOH’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG). 

Sinovac did not receive a positive recommendation from HTAC yet. 

“It is important before we enter into a contract, before the government pays for vaccines or medicines. It’s in the Universal Health Care law, we need a positive recommendation,” Robredo said in Filipino.

“This is a difficult situation. We always have a communication problem, right? One agency says it cannot be used, the other says it can,” she added.

The vice president made the statement coinciding with the scheduled arrival today of the Sinovac vaccines in the Philippines.

Robredo said both Pfizer and AstraZeneca have EUA from FDA, as well as positive recommendations from HTAC. 

She does not agree with what other government officials are saying that Sinovac doesn’t need the positive recommendation from HTAC because the shipment of 600,000 doses are donations. 

“Whether they’re donated or we’re purchasing them, we need to protect our people so what’s the problem with seeking a positive recommendation?” Robredo asked.

In the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccines, Robredo stressed the importance of following the law because it is an “added layer of protection” for the people.