Imee: Rich Countries Getting Vaccine At Cheaper Price

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Senator Imee Marcos has asked the government to explain why it will pay more than double what rich countries have negotiated to buy the same vaccine against Covid-19.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, said Belgium’s budget secretary Eva De Bleeker had publicly disclosed that member states of the European Union (EU) will be buying the AstraZeneca vaccine for only 1.78 euro or about 105 pesos per dose, which is 2.3 times less than what the Philippines will 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 Php240 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 Php7.2 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.

Marcos also cited that the United States will be buying the AstraZeneca vaccine at $4 per dose, at which rate five Americans can be immunized for every four Filipinos.

“The pricing issue must be addressed by the IATF, lest the government be suspected of profiteering amid tight funding for vaccines,” Marcos said.

Marcos has pushed for an ASEAN initiative to lobby global pharmaceutical firms to waive their intellectual property rights on vaccine patents, so that vaccines can be produced locally and sold at a cheaper price in poorer countries.