PASIG CITY (9 September 2021) – National Task Force against COVID 19 Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito G. 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 judgement 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,” Galvez said during the hearing conducted by the House Committee on Economic Affairs on Thursday.

The COVID-19 Vaccination Act of 2021 or RA 11525 allows local government units (LGUs) and private firms to procure vaccine supplies through multi-party agreements with the national government.

Galvez said the NTF welcomed this arrangement as evidenced by 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.

Disadvantaged position

However, he stressed the task force will not allow dubious deals made by consolidators that will put the procuring entities, particularly LGUs, into the “disadvantage side.”

“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 shall be 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 not limited to, the price and payment terms, to make sure that there is price uniformity and to prevent price competition.

Galvez bared that 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],” Galvez emphasized.

He also pointed out that the average cost of vaccines procured by the national government is USD 10 per dose, while the price offered by those acting as consolidators of LGUs for the purchase of Covaxin were pegged at USD 18 per dose.

Likewise, 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 in the country’s 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 are all hearsay,” he said.

“Matagal pa ang hihintayin 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 must not have third party consolidators

The vaccine czar also explained that under an MPA, signatories and parties involved are limited to the NTF represented by himself, 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 private company.

He said that 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.

With regards to 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.

He said that 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 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 and vaccine makers’ take on MPAs

According to Galvez, 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,” said Galvez.

He underscored that supply issues were the main reason for slippages in the deliveries of Moderna, Astrazeneca, and Sputnik V vaccines.

“There are challenges in the deliveries. 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 [2020] and the first delivery arrived in July [2021]. It’s coming through in very small volumes, but we are pressing Astrazeneca to step up the deliveries,” he added. .

Galvez said that out of the 17 million doses of Astrazeneca vaccines procured by the private sector and LGUs, 3.2 million doses have already been delivered.

He added that nearly eight million doses will be delivered by the first quarter of 2022.

No to MPAs

Meanwhile, 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,” said Pfizer Interim Country Manager Eddie Reyes.

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,” said Zuellig Pharma Asia Pacific Senior Vice President and Area Director Raymund Azurin.

“We really do not, Moderna at the moment prefers only that [existing] tripartite agreement,” he added.

As for Astrazeneca vaccines, its EUA holder in the country, Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals Philippines Inc, said that they “are willing to enter into a multilateral agreement for 2022 supply”. END