Gov’t saved $700M in negotiating for millions of COVID vaccine doses — Galvez

Published January 19, 2021, 11:01 AM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The government has managed to save $700 million in negotiating for the country’s supply of millions of vaccine doses at an “almost no profit” price, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said Monday.

Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez Jr.

In a meeting with President Duterte and some Cabinet members, Galvez reported they were able to negotiate for a lower vaccine price that brought the country’s total secured supply to 148 million doses from the original 70 million.

“Maipapangako ko po sa ating mga mahal na kababayan na ang lahat ng mga negosasyon at cost, meaning, almost no profit. And then noong kinompute  ko po lahat ‘yung ano, ‘yung mga brands, lumalabas po na naka-save po tayo ng 700 million dollars (I can promise to our people that all negotiations were made at cost, meaning, almost no profit. And when I computed the cost of brands, it showed that we saved $700 million),” Galvez said in his remarks aired on state television.

As a result of the sale at cost price, Galvez noted that the government was able to buy more doses of vaccines from suppliers.

“‘Yung kanyang offer price, naibaba po natin ng halos kalahati. So kaya po ang nangyari po, iyong dati po natin, ‘yung plano po namin ni Secretary Duque na 70 million doses umangat po, Mr. President, ng 148 million doses (We were able to bring down their price offer to almost half. Secretary Duque and I planned to secure 70 million doses but the figure increased to 148 million doses, Mr. President),” he said.

Galvez also defended the government’s vaccine acquisition efforts as “clean,” rejecting allegations of any irregularity. “‘Yung deal po natin, talaga pong sinasabi po natin sa ating mga tao, sa ating mamamayan na malinis po ‘yung deal natin. At saka po, totoo po kayo na wala po akong hawak na pera (We are telling our people that our deals are clean. It is true that I’m not holding the funds for the purchase),” he said.

Galvez said that he could not divulge the actual price of the vaccines since he is bound by the confidentiality clause in the initial supply deal.

On the varying vaccine costs, Galvez said that the price becomes cheaper if supplies are bought in bulk or if a country has its own filling station or even a manufacturing site. The vaccine cost can also be reduced if the buyer gets the supply from the country of the manufacturer instead of paying for their freight expenses.

“Katulad po ng Sinovac, in-offer-an po tayo ng filling station. Pagka filling station po, kalahati po dapat ang babayaran lang natin dahil tayo po ang magfi-finish. Raw materials dadalhin dito, tayo na po ang magfi-filling station (Sinovac offered us a filling station. With a filling station, only half of the cost will be paid because we will do the finishing. They will bring the raw materials and we will handle the filling station),” he said.

Galvez said Thailand could have cheaper vaccines since it has its own manufacturing facility for the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca.

Galvez, who has been pressed by some lawmakers to disclose the vaccine cost during a recent Senate hearing, admitted that the companies “warned” him that he signed a non disclosure agreement.

“Anything that you will disclose even when in public and even in the executive session, they have to follow ‘yung CDA.” Unless, they also have to sign the CDA with us,” he said, quoting the manufacturer.

Manila has locked in 25 million vaccine doses from China’s Sinovac Biotech with the 50,000 scheduled to be shipped into the country next month. An additional 30 million doses of Covavax from Serum Institute of India have also been secured. Around 17 million doses from United Kingdom-based AstraZeneca have also been purchased through tripartite deals involving the private sector and local government units.

The first batch of vaccine supplies will start arriving in the country next month. The government intends to give free vaccinations, starting with the medical frontliners, poor and vulnerable sector, and uniformed personnel.