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Last Monday, I was interviewed on The Final Word with Rico Hizon at CNN, where I shared our progress with AstraZeneca and the green light to purchase another batch of vaccines on top of the initially procured. Here is my conversation with Rico.
Rico: Well speaking of AstraZeneca, the British pharmaceutical giant gives the Philippines the green light to purchase more vaccine – on top of the 2.6 million doses earlier procured by the private sector. Let’s get more on this new deal from presidential advisor for entrepreneurship, Joey Concepcion. Joey, thank you so much for joining us on the program. So, tell us who would be covered in this second batch of vaccine doses because the first procurement was 50/50 for the government and the private initiative.
Joey: Well the tripartite agreement states even with the second part, we will be purchasing the vaccines from AstraZeneca and we will be donating 100 percent to the government. Part of the tripartite agreement states that 50 percent of the vaccines will be for the use of the donors, their employees, but following the same protocols for the frontliners, as well. Nothing changes from that tripartite agreement. In fact, that type of agreement can be used in the future with other vaccine manufacturers as well.
Rico: So, does the AstraZeneca deal, Joey, cover the transportation storage and distribution costs?
Joey: Well, there’s a certain small amount there that covers the transportation. But for the logistics here locally, I’m not sure about that, but that’s still going to be discussed. Secretary Charlie is calling for a logistics summit, I think, this coming week. So, that will be addressed there. We have enough time to prepare because these vaccines are scheduled to arrive May-June onward, thereabouts.
Rico: All right, 2.6 million doses for the first procurement, you already have an idea what the second batch of how many doses it will include?
Joey: Well, we’re getting a lot of calls. We’re helping to put this thing together because we have the network. Hopefully, we can come close to what we did in the first round so that we’ll hopefully get to about five million. We will do our best because I believe that the private sector plays a very important role here in opening up the economy safely and I think the vaccines, very clearly, provide that solution to this whole effort of opening up the economy.
Rico: But Joey, AstraZeneca withdrew its application to hold trials in the country, will this have any kind of impact to the timeline and the deal for the country which you say, would this first batch be here by May or June of next year?
Joey: No, the trials are not mandatory as DG Domingo stated in this interview, and it was never a mandatory thing. AstraZeneca has completed its trials in phases one, two, and three, and it doesn’t mean that they can’t do trials in the Philippines later on. They can still do that, but for now, they are not going to do it. So, DG Domingo has stated that these are not mandatory. What’s very important is that the MHRA, which is their version of the FDA, comes out for the use of AstraZeneca, so our own FDA here can give approval to AstraZeneca to be used in the Philippines. So then, the government can place their order once that happens.
Rico: All right. Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said they’re finalizing the swift negotiations with Sinovac vaccines. The Chinese drug maker vowed to supply vaccines by April or maybe even March. Why is it the private sector involved in this year with AstraZeneca is only arriving in May or June?
Joey: Well, AstraZeneca has zero profit. As you know, the price is about $5 per dose, and they approached us. Most of these AstraZeneca programs are basically being sold to the government through us. What we are donating to the government basically, we purchase from Astra then donate to the government. And the Sinovac, I’m sure, it’s also basically a G2G at this time. Most countries are G2G, especially in the year 2021. But with this effort from AstraZeneca and us donating to the government, it allows us to be able to use 50 percent of that for our own employees. So, it’s a great formula for us to have access for the use of our employees. If not for that program, we will not be able to have access of the vaccines for our employees.
Rico: Joey, the Pfizer vaccine has already been rolled out in the UK and it will be rolling out this morning, as we speak, across the United States. Is the private sector and the government getting any closer to a deal with them?
Joey: Well, my view there is that there are a lot of countries that have placed their deposit with Pfizer and I don’t think there has been any program that’s also for zero profit. Pfizer is an American company, so their priority is to help American citizens from the way I see it. But I think Secretary Charlie Galvez is trying to approach all vaccine suppliers.
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