PH negotiating to pay more to expedite delivery of COVID-19 vaccines

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 25) — The Philippine government is willing to shell out more funds if it means receiving COVID-19 vaccines as early as possible since the arrival of doses keep getting delayed.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., citing global supply shortage and unequal distribution, said they are willing to pay more if it means the coronavirus vaccines will reach the country by mid-year.

"Dadagdagan po ‘yong prices para mapaaga po," he said in a televised meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte that aired on Wednesday. "Nagne-negotiate po tayo, kahit mapamahal nang kaunti, na magkaroon ng early delivery ng second and first quarters."

[Translation: We are paying more so it will arrive earlier. We're negotiating, even if it means a slight increase in costs, just so they could be delivered in the first and second quarters.]

Galvez said the government is "off-setting" the payment to secure the doses.

Duterte previously claimed countries that are the "highest bidders" are prioritized by pharmaceutical companies in the distribution of vaccines, saying this is the reason why the Philippines has yet to receive its supply.

Galvez said the bulk of secured doses are expected to arrive only in the second half of 2021. The Philippines is set to receive 161 million vaccine doses from various firms before the year ends, but only 5.1 million is seen to be delivered to the country by March.

"Kung makikita po natin, Mr. President, talagang manipis po tayo sa sa first quarter kasi ang total lang po niyan is 5.1 million," he admitted.

[Translation: As you can see, Mr. President, we have a lean supply in the first quarter. It will only total to 5.1 million.]

Among the batches arriving before end-March, according to Galvez, are 600,000 doses of Sinovac donated by China, 3.5 million doses of Pfizer and AstraZeneca from the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility, and doses independently secured by the Department of Health.

In his report to the President, Galvez also mentioned that they are currently finalizing the supply agreement with Moderna. The American firm is among several vaccine makers requiring an indemnification deal to shield them from liability in case an individual experiences serious side effects from vaccination.