Senator Imee R. Marcos, chairwoman of the Senate economic affairs committee, on Monday asked the government to explain why it would pay more than double what rich countries have negotiated to buy the same vaccine against coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
“The pricing issue must be addressed by the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force), lest the government be suspected of profiteering amid tight funding for vaccines,” she said.
Marcos pointed out that Belgium’s budget secretary Eva De Bleeker had publicly disclosed that member states of the European Union (EU) would be buying the AstraZeneca vaccine for only 1.78 euro or about P105 per dose, which is 2.3 times less than what the Philippines would be paying the British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm.
This week, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) expects to sign an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 30 million doses of its vaccine at $5 or about P240 per dose, as soon as the UK health ministry authorizes its use.
“The purchase price doesn’t match the promise sold,” Marcos said.
Marcos cited statements made by AstraZeneca’s CEO Pascal Soriot and its research partner Oxford University “to provide the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis for the duration of the pandemic across the world, and in perpetuity to low- and middle-income countries.”
“Why has the government agreed to be shortchanged?” Marcos added. At $5 per dose, 30 million doses will cost the Philippine government $150 million or almost P7.2 billion, which could buy more than 69 million doses for the EU.
“With two doses required, 15 million Filipinos can be vaccinated at the same cost that can cover about 34.5 million Europeans,” Marcos pointed out.
The lady lawmaker from the Ilocos region also cited that the United States would be buying the AstraZeneca vaccine at $4 per dose, at which rate five Americans could be immunized for every four Filipinos.
Marcos has pushed for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) initiative to lobby global pharmaceutical firms to waive their intellectual property rights on vaccine patents, so that vaccines could be produced locally and sold at a cheaper price in poorer countries.