Philippines Struggles to Convince Citizens to Trust Chinese Vaccine

Philippines Struggles to Convince Citizens to Trust Chinese Vaccine

The Philippine government on Wednesday urged Filipinos to choose the Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine candidate CoronaVac, admitting that the public’s significant lack of enthusiasm toward the “Made in China” product has caused many to shun the shot.

“That’s what I’m saying to our countrymen, that we shouldn’t be brand-conscious. All vaccines have their own [percentage] of efficacy,” Philippine Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez, Jr., said in an interview with the Filipino news program Headstart on March 3.

China’s state-run pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech produced Coronavac, a Chinese coronavirus vaccine candidate. Full efficacy data released in January found CoronaVac to be just 50.38 percent effective against the Chinese coronavirus. The Philippine government has repeatedly encouraged Filipinos to receive CoronaVac, which it has included in its national coronavirus vaccine drive, despite its low efficacy rate.

“[Q]uite a number of [Philippine] medical workers have rejected CoronaVac, saying that they prefer to wait for other vaccine brands, such as the ones made by Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca, because they have higher efficacy rates,” Coconuts Manila reported on Wednesday.

“As a consequence, even Filipinos who do not work in healthcare are wary of taking Sinovac [CoronaVac],” according to the news site.

The Philippines Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved CoronaVac for emergency use in the country on February 22.

Late-stage trial data of CoronaVac suggested it had “a lower efficacy when used for healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] compared with healthy individuals age 18-59,” Philippine FDA chief Rolando Enrique Domingo said at the time.

“According to our experts, (Sinovac’s) vaccine is not the best vaccine for them,” Domingo said at a February 22 press briefing, referring to the Philippines’ 1.4 million healthcare workers.

“The [CoronaVac] vaccine is recommended to be administered only to healthy individuals 18 to 59 years old, but not to senior citizens and medical frontliners,” the Philippine FDA said.

Sinovac Biotech agreed to donate 600,000 CoronaVac doses to the Philippines, which is home to over 108 million people and currently has the second-highest coronavirus caseload in Southeast Asia. The first batch of CoronaVac doses arrived in Manila on February 28 and the Philippine government launched a national coronavirus vaccine campaign two days later on March 2.

CoronaVac is the third Chinese coronavirus vaccine candidate approved for emergency use in the Philippines. Manila has contracted to receive 117,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNtech’s COVAX, distributed by the World Health Organization to poorer nations, as well as the option developed by British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

Gabrielle Reyes