MANILA - The country's vaccine czar on Wednesday denied that the national government withheld the signing of tripartite agreements, of which local governments are part, for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
Nearly all local government tripartite deals have yet to be signed, Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri earlier said.
"It’s not our desire to put on hold the tripartite agreement. But the manufacturers are not interested to have multi-party agreements because it becomes complicated and the coordination becomes messy," Secretary Carlito Galvez, J.r told the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
Sinovac, Pfizer and Gamaleya are prioritizing orders of national government due to supply constraints, while AstraZeneca and Moderna are no longer accepting vaccine orders though multi-party agreements (MPAs), according to Galvez.
During the Cabinet's meeting presided by President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night, Galvez disclosed that Moderna and AstraZeneca are talking only to businessman Enrique Razon and Presidential Adviser for Entreprenuership Joey Concepcion, respectively.
Johnson & Johnson and Sinopharm are not yet open to MPAs, while there are pricing and delivery issues with Bharat Biotech, Galvez said during the Senate hearing..
There are two more firms involved in the agreement with Bharat Biotech, which would make the procurement of vaccines more costly, he added.
"I think the problem here is the inclusion of 2 companies. In our dealings with the tripartite agreements, we are directly communicating with the manufacturer. The question is why we have two intermediaries," Galvez said.
"It will create some sort of question on the pricing because we involve more players. The question on consolidator, I believe the public should know it will increase cost when we include 2 more companies rather than direct."
The Philippines also cannot ensure the supply of the Covaxin, the product of Bharat Biotech, as demand is still high in virus-stricken India, Galvez added.
At the Cabinet meeting, Galvez said, "Hindi po namin hino-hold ‘yung tripartite agreement, hindi po namin dini-delay. Ang ginagawa lang po namin is ‘yung due diligence."
(We are not withholding or delaying the tripartite agreement. We are just exercising due diligence.)
Zubiri raised the issue as he said local officials were concerned with alleged "vaccine inequality" as majority of the country's jab supply were allocated in Metro Manila.
Galvez said the bulk of the vaccines that the country will receive beginning September will be equally allocated to different regions.
Some 25 million vaccine doses are expected to arrive in September, of which some 3.8 million will be given to Calabarzon and 3 million for Central Luzon, according to the vaccine czar.
"Majority of the volumes in millions will be equitably distributed to different areas. I believe with this allocation, we are assuring all provinces in all the regions will be given their share," he said.
More than 48.5 million vaccine doses have so far been delivered to the Philippines, of which 27.9 million were procured by the national government, 3.6 million were purchased by the private sector and LGUs, nearly 13.3 million were acquired through the COVAX facility, and more than 3.6 million were donated by other countries.
Some 13.1 million people in the country have already been fully vaccinated as of Monday, while 17.4 million have yet to receive their second dose, according to government data.