MANILA – National Task Force Against Covid-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. stood firm on the national government’s position on multi-party agreements (MPAs), saying they were put on hold due to questionable deals made by third-party consolidators.
“I need to have prudent judgment on securing and entering into agreements. We cannot sign [an agreement] without the indicative delivery dates. Dapat kumpleto dahil lahat ng kontrata natin mayroon n’yan para alam natin kung sakaling magkaroon ng slippages (They should be complete because all of our contracts have that to inform us if there would be slippages),” Galvez said during the hearing of the House Committee on Economic Affairs on Thursday.
The Covid-19 Vaccination Act of 2021 or Republic Act 11525 allows local government units (LGUs) and private firms to procure vaccine supplies through multi-party agreements with the national government.
Proofs of this arrangement are the seven million doses of Moderna purchased by various private companies and the 17 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines procured by the private sector and over 69 local government units nationwide, Galvez said.
The task force will not allow dubious deals made by consolidators that might put the procuring entities, particularly LGUs, into the “disadvantaged side”, Galvez said.
“We are protecting the money of the LGUs because these are public funds. These consolidators sign agreements with LGUs without the knowledge of the NTF or the national government,” he said.
Under Section 3 of RA 11525, the Department of Health (DOH) and the NTF are authorized to negotiate and approve the terms and conditions on behalf of the LGUs and other procuring entities in the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines.
This includes, but is not limited to, the price and payment terms, to make sure that there is price uniformity and to prevent price competition.
Galvez said consolidators, particularly for the procurement of Covaxin of Bharat Biotech, did not include the NTF in their negotiations, and in fact requested LGUs for advance payments for overpriced vaccines that have no definite nor indicative delivery dates.
“Sana ang mga LGUs natin will be guided, huwag po kayo magbayad ng walang pirma ng NTF [sa kontrata] (I hope that all of our LGUs will be guided. Don’t pay if there’s no NTF signature on the contract),” he said.
He also pointed out that the average cost of vaccines procured by the national government is USD10 per dose, while the price offered by those acting as consolidators of LGUs for the purchase of Covaxin was pegged at USD18 per dose.
Galvez said the Philippine Embassy in India informed the NTF of the current export ban being implemented by the Indian government for its Covid-19 vaccines due to the surge of cases in India cases and the increase in domestic demand.
“There’s a clear question in the committed vaccine volume because there’s no volume coming from India. ‘Yung 10 million doses na sinasabi (The 10 million doses they are saying) are all hearsay,” he said.
“Matagal pa ang hihintayin (We have to wait longer) for vaccines coming from that country and we don’t want to give the LGUs and the private sector the false premise that supply will come,” Galvez added.
MPAs mustn’t have 3rd party consolidators
Under an MPA, signatories and parties involved are limited to the NTF represented by Galvez, the DOH represented by Secretary Francisco Duque III, the vaccine manufacturer, the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) holder, and the procuring entity which is either the LGU or a private company.
Galvez said no consolidator should be involved in an MPA, as negotiations must directly be made with the manufacturer and its authorized country representative in the Philippines, which is the EUA holder.
About the MPAs for AstraZeneca and Moderna, the EUA holders who facilitate the storage and distribution of the vaccines must be part of the procuring entities.
Galvez said this is the ideal setup similar to the case of Go Negosyo and ICTSI.
Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion supported Galvez’s position on the need to exercise prudence in the signing of MPAs.
“Secretary Galvez is very careful in choosing the vaccine manufacturer that would support the Philippines. We have to be careful because if the reliability of the vaccine is not there, you would have a lot of problems with those who have got the vaccines,” Concepcion said.
Challenge in supply
Galvez said requests for MPAs for the purchase of vaccines included in the Philippines’ vaccine portfolio were put on hold primarily because of supply concerns in the global market.
“Ang problema ay hindi ang contract but ‘yung supply. Mali ang assumption na kapag napirmahan na ang contract, andyan na ang supply. Manufacturers cannot give us yet definite supply (The problem is not the contract but the supply. It is a wrong assumption that when a contract has been signed, the supply is already available),” Galvez said.
Supply issues were the main reason for slippages in the deliveries of Moderna, AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines, Galvez said.
Concepcion said deliveries of vaccines remain a challenge.
“The negotiations with AstraZeneca were perfectly fine. The vaccines we ordered are coming from Thailand and this is where our supplies will come from,” Concepcion said. “We made the order in November  and the first delivery arrived in July . It’s coming through in very small volumes, but we are pressing AstraZeneca to step up the deliveries.”
Out of the 17 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine procured by the private sector and LGUs, 3.2 million doses have been delivered.
Nearly eight million doses will be delivered by the first quarter of 2022.
No to MPAs
Representatives from Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca confirmed that their companies are not welcoming MPAs as of this time.
“For Pfizer, all our supply agreements are with national governments and we don’t enter into MPAs. That’s the position so far of Pfizer and we have over 120 countries and territories that we have supply agreements with,” Pfizer Interim Country Manager Eddie Reyes said.
This is the same case with Moderna, as represented by its EUA holder Zuellig Pharma.
“We also in the Philippines have the only tripartite agreement in the world. And I think that’s due to the efforts of the government,” Zuellig Pharma Asia Pacific senior vice president and area director Raymund Azurin said.
“We really do not, Moderna at the moment prefers only that [existing] tripartite agreement,” he added.
As for AstraZeneca vaccine, its EUA holder in the country AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals Philippines Inc. said it is “willing to enter into a multilateral agreement for 2022 supply”. (PNA)