VERA FILES FACT CHECK: To boost trust in Sinovac, Roque repeatedly cites wrong data

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In at least three separate briefings, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque misstated the interim clinical trial results of Indonesia on CoronaVac, a vaccine against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) developed by Chinese firm Sinovac BioTech.

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Roque’s claims on Sinovac in his Jan. 14 briefing were made to address criticisms that the government is “favoring” the China-made vaccine over other candidates that have reported higher efficacy rates at supposedly cheaper prices.

In recent back-to-back hearings on the national immunization program, senators pressed government officials on the move to secure 25 million doses of Sinovac COVID-19 jabs despite allegations of overpricing and the fact that it has yet to be issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Sinovac applied for an EUA in the country on Jan. 13 but has yet to submit data on its phase 3 clinical trials for evaluation, the FDA said in a Jan. 14 media forum. As of Jan. 21, only Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine has been granted a permit for emergency use in the country.

What is ‘vaccine efficacy’?

Vaccine efficacy is the term used to “report on how well a vaccine works to prevent a particular disease in controlled, research environments,” according to a global team of public health experts convened by international nonprofit Meedan.

It pertains to “how well the vaccine prevents the virus in the research vaccine group” compared to participants in the trial who did not receive the treatment, Meedan experts said. It does not describe how well the vaccine works on the general public in real-world conditions, they added.


Sources

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Jan. 14, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Jan. 18, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Jan. 19, 2021

Cabinet Secretary of the Republic of Indonesia, BPOM Issues EUA for Sinovac COVID-19 Vaccine, Jan. 11, 2021

Reuters, Wariness in Indonesia as Chinese COVID-19 jabs start, Jan. 13, 2021

South China Morning Post, Coronavirus: Turkey approves China’s Sinovac vaccine for emergency use, Jan. 14, 2021

AP, Indonesia green-lights emergency use of Chinese vaccine, Jan. 11, 2021

CNBC, Brazil researchers now say China’s Sinovac vaccine is 50% effective — lower than announced earlier, Jan. 12, 2021

World Health Organization, CONSIDERATIONS FOR EVALUATION OF COVID19 VACCINES, Nov. 25, 2020

Manila Bulletin, Senators question gov’t for pushing Sinovac vaccine despite its low efficacy rate, Jan. 15, 2021

Philstar.com, Senators question government preference for Sinovac, Jan. 16, 2021

Inquirer.net, Senators question vaccine deal with China’s Sinovac sans EUA application, Jan. 11, 2021

Rappler, Senate hearing puts heat on Duterte gov’t negotiations with Sinovac, Jan. 15, 2021

Manila Standard, ‘Sinovac buy still up in the air’, Jan. 16, 2021

Senate of the Philippines, Lacson: Differences in Sinovac Prices Smack in Corruption, Jan. 17, 2021

Department of Health official Facebook page, FDA Special Announcement, Jan. 14, 2021

Food and Drug Administration, FDA Philippines Grants Emergency Use Authorization to Pfizer-BioNTech COVID19 Vaccine, Jan. 14, 2021

Learnaboutcovid19.org, Vaccine efficacy, n.d.

Learnaboutcovid19.org, “In what way could the public better understand efficacy rates of COVID-19 vaccines published by various companies, and do the efficacy rates affect a population’s herd immunity if that is the ideal goal of vaccination programs?,” Jan. 19, 2021


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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