THE Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) has posed no objection to the procurement of the Sinovac inactivated vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), saying its use has been deemed “beneficial”.
In a statement Saturday, March 6, 2021, the Department of Health (DOH) said HTAC released the results of its assessment of the Sinovac vaccine on March 3, 2021, a few days after the first batch of Sinovac vaccines arrived in the country.
DOH said the HTAC, which is an independent advisory body that provides guidance on the coverage of health interventions and technologies to be funded by the government, “deemed the use of CoronaVac (Sinovac) as being beneficial.”
Under Republic Act 11223, or Universal Health Care Law, the DOH and PhilHealth may only procure or invest in health technologies that have been recommended by the HTAC.
HTAC had also assessed the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines against Covid-19, and recommended their emergency use in the Philippines.
But the council published its separate reports and guidance on the use of these vaccines several days after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA).
The FDA issued an EUA to Pfizer on January 14, 2021 and another to AstraZeneca on January 28.
HTAC published its report recommending the emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine on February 2 and a separate report recommending the AstraZeneca vaccine on February 9.
In the case of the Sinovac vaccine, the FDA issued an EUA on February 22 while the HTAC forwarded the results of its assessment to the DOH on March 3.
Back in January, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. also announced that the government has procured 25 million doses from Sinovac Biotech Ltd.
The 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine that arrived on February 28 were donated by China.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr., who is one of the principal authors of the UHC Law in the 17th Congress, said earlier that HTAC’s review of vaccines that have been approved by the FDA was “no longer necessary.”
“Hindi po minamandato ng Universal Health Care law na kailangang sumailalim sa pagsusuri or review ang mga bakuna ng Health Technology Assessment Council,” Roque said in a press briefing on March 2.
He was reacting to observations that the Sinovac should not be used without HTAC approval.
Roque cited Section 34 of the Universal Health Care law, which states, “The health technology assessment shall be institutionalized as a fair and transparent priority setting mechanism that shall be recommendatory to the Department of Health and PhilHealth.”
“Ang HTAC is not to second guess, and not to sit in judgment of the judgment of the FDA kung safe or effective ang gamot,” Roque said. (Marites Villamor-Ilano / SunStar Philippines)