Duterte defends Sinovac anew amid deaths in Norway after Pfizer shot

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 19) — President Rodrigo Duterte took a jab at senators who favored the vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech after the deaths of some elderly patients in Norway who took a shot against COVID-19.

“Ang Pfizer ng mga senador (The Pfizer for the senators)...25 died after receiving their vaccines. There you are, mamili kayo (you choose),” said Duterte during his weekly national address on Monday.

He added that China-made Sinovac vaccine is now being used in neighboring countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, as well as in Turkey, Egypt, and UAE, claiming that there were no reported deaths after being vaccinated with it.

“Almost everybody na kilala ko are scrambling to buy itong Pfizer (Almost everybody that I know want to buy Pfizer). To me it is a good one. If you want to follow the experience of Norway, go ahead, nobody will stop you,” said Duterte.

Duterte defended last week the national government’s preference for China-made COVID-19 vaccines, saying that they are as good as those produced by American and European pharmaceuticals.

However, some studies showed that Sinovac’s efficacy is only at around 50%.

Senators recently criticized Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque's remark that Filipinos should not be "choosy" with the COVID-19 vaccine brand that they will receive from the government.

Several local government units in the country are set to procure vaccines from British drugmaker AstraZeneca. But the president said the national government is not preventing anyone from buying their own vaccines.

READ: LGUs announce signing deals for advance purchase of AstraZeneca vaccines

“We never prohibited anybody from buying from government. We are not selling. We are buying for the people,” said Duterte.

The government has granted an emergency use authorization for the vaccine made by Pfizer-BioNTech. Its vaccine has shown 95% efficacy. Despite the reported deaths, the Food and Drug Administration said the manufacturer will keep its EUA but it needs to send a report to the agency.

Moreover, Pfizer-BioNTech said in a statement that it is now working with Norwegian health officials to gather more data regarding the incident.

“Pfizer and BioNTech are aware of the reported deaths following administration of BNT162b2. We are working with the Norewegian Medicines Agency (NOMA) to gather all the relevant information,” read the statement.

“Norwegian authorities have prioritised the immunisation of resident in nursing homes, most of whom are very elderly with underlying medical conditions and some which are terminally ill,” it added. “NOMA confirmed the number of incidents so far is not alarming, and in line with expectations.”

Pfizer-BioNTech also said that all reported deaths will be evaluated by the authorities to determine if they are related to its vaccine.

Norway has now changed its use of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to consider excluding the terminally ill.