So how much is the ‘kick-vac’?

By: Solita Callas-Monsod - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | January 16,2021 - 08:00 AM

Remember Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.’s charge that the Philippines had the opportunity (he arranged it) to contract with Pfizer for the delivery of vaccines as early as January this year—and that the government flubbed it? Somebody was talking about “kick-vacs,” but it couldn’t have been Pfizer bribing someone in the government, right? Why should Pfizer do such a thing? But nobody pressed the bribery issue, so it died. And the flubbing issue also died, when it was discovered that it was Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. and the President who were the ones dribbling the ball too long, so the favored scapegoat, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, couldn’t be held to account.

The point is, do we even know now if and when the order for Pfizer has been placed? How many doses? When will they arrive? The price of the vaccine is on the internet: No such thing as confidentiality—it is $19.50 per dose.

So, no closure on that one.

Then, hardly had the noise died down, there arose the issue of the vaccination of some favored military and government officials. It was the President himself who divulged this information, at least for the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and the military. Then, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año divulged the fact that at least one member of the Cabinet had also been vaccinated. And a congressman was overheard boasting about his receiving the vaccine, too.

Until someone pointed out that the vaccine (Sinopharm) must have been smuggled in, because it was illegal to import a medicine that had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Double jeopardy.

At which point the PSG head claimed that he was responsible, all by his lonesome, for getting the vaccine and injecting himself and his subordinates, without the approval of the President, or even a doctor. Did you hear of anything so ludicrous? But I didn’t hear anyone laughing. The Senate wanted to investigate, but got scared off by the President refusing for the PSG head to be questioned by the Senate, on the grounds of executive privilege.

Even more ludicrous. Didn’t the PSG head say he did it all by his lonesome? So why should the President claim executive privilege? Yet, no one is laughing, least of all the Senate, which apparently removed the PSG from its list of entities to investigate.

But there are other unanswered questions: Why haven’t the Cabinet members, or the military, or the members of Congress, come forward to say whether or not they had received the vaccine? If they are hesitating to admit, it must be because they must feel some shame for jumping the line, as it were, since the supply of vaccines is limited, or demand far exceeds supply. Frontline health care personnel and people aged 75 and over are usually first to be given.

Then, there is the story that the President did not take the vaccine. And his security chief (I guess, the PSG head) was quoted as saying that the President was waiting for the “appropriate” vaccine. What could that possibly mean? 1) That he was waiting for a legally procured vaccine? Or 2) That he was waiting for a better vaccine (better than the Chinese Sinopharm)? You’ve got to admit, Reader, that if it is the latter, that would figuratively open a can of worms.

The latest set of vaccine issues is the purchase of Sinovac or, more accurately, CoronaVac (Sinovac is the pharmaceutical company, CoronaVac is the vaccine). This vaccine has a wide variety of efficacy rates (the bigger the sample, the lower the efficacy, and Brazil’s sample shows something like 50.36 percent), and just as wide a range of prices (the British Broadcasting Co. reports that it sold locally in China for 400 yuan or $60, and it sold to Indonesia at $13).

How much are we buying it for? The government says it has a confidentiality agreement with Sinovac, kuno, so it cannot divulge the information. But then, if we are buying a vaccine with such low efficacy rate (50.36), it better be very cheap. It is cold comfort that it is within the World Health Organization’s minimum acceptability of 50 percent. No wonder only 25 percent of Filipinos want the vaccine—who would want one with such low efficacy?

Of course, the elephant in the room is: How much is the kick-vac on this vaccine? If it can sell between $13 and $60—and we don’t know if that $13 sale already has a kick-vac—no wonder also that the government wants to buy from Sinovac no matter what the citizens say. At 25 million doses of the vaccine, a patong of only $5 would earn somebody $125 million, or P6.25 billion.

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TAGS: Año, Kick-vacs, locsin, Pfizer, Philippines, President Duterte, Sinovac, vaccine, vaccines

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