PEZA conducts dialogue on COVID-19 vaccine procurement to guide PEZA-registered companies
22 April 2021 (Thursday)
Pasay City – The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) has hosted on Tuesday an online forum for its export-oriented registered companies with experts from the national government, primarily from the Department of Health (DOH), and potential suppliers from the private sector to educate them regarding the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and ensure the protection of its workers and the safety of the ecozones.
According to PEZA Director General Charito “Ching” Plaza, “the PEZA management initiated this dialogue upon the request of our ecozone locators for PEZA to take the lead in getting the right resource persons to educate us about the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and their safety.”
“It is essential to understand why it is important to achieve herd immunity or that majority of our population is vaccinated. The lesson is we all share each other’s safety and health,” Plaza noted.
The dialogue attended by around 1,200 online participants was participated by resource persons namely Dr. Nikka Hao, Head of the DOH Disease Prevention and Control Bureau and Dr. Teodoro Herbosa, Special Adviser of the National Task Force (NTF) who discussed the Government COVID vaccination program.
For the private sector COVID vaccination management, former DOH Secretary Dr. Paulyn Rosell-Ubial, now the Head of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Molecular Laboratory, Ms. Josephine Romero of GoNegosyo, the Senior Adviser of the ASEAN-BAC Philippines and the Program Lead of A DOSE OF HOPE, and Mr. Carlo Garrucho, the Chief Operating Officer of IP Biotech, Inc. shared their insights on the benefits of COVID vaccination especially for ecozone export-oriented locators and their workers being economic frontliners.
Government Vaccine Procurement
On the vaccine procurement of the government, Dr. Hao of DOH explained, “We’re implementing one national program across the country regardless if it’s bought by the national government, the private sector, and all others that will be procuring. That means, all of the process has to take place across all of the different procurement method and that includes passing through the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] … and will also encompass following the [government’s] prioritization list.”
Dr. Herbosa added, “All procurement will have to follow the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan and all of the processes and must report to the National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC), which controls all of these operations.”
On the tripartite agreement, Dr. Herbosa of NTF emphasized that “The private sector is best partnering with the government because it is the bulk purchase of the government that lowers the price. With your additional orders, what happens is we are able to get the best price for the bulk order for the vaccines.”
Dr. Herbosa, who is also the Executive Vice President of the University of the Philippines (UP), likewise noted that, “All the vaccines have not been approved by the FDA for sale. It has only been given an emergency use authorization (EUA) to the government.” So far, the vaccines with EUA from the FDA are the Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Gamaleya’s Sputnik V, and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccines according to its website.
“You cannot buy on your own. And even if you buy on your own, I doubt if any of the companies will sell to you especially if you have small order … You’ll really have to partner with the government on this one. It’s not that we’re forcing you [but] that’s the way it is all over the world,” Dr. Herbosa further explained.
He added, “Another thing in the tripartite [agreement] is that none must profit … the private sector is allowed to buy, but the private sector is not allowed to profit from this vaccine program.”
Ms. Romero and Dr. Ubiall have likewise noted that the government will be the one to cover any expenses that will result from any adverse effects after vaccination. As Dr. Herbosa explained, the indemnity clause of the agreement only pays the government.
Private Sector Agreement
Meanwhile, Ms. Romero of GoNegosyo explained that, in the case of the private sector procurement, “the purchase agreement and the term sheet that [the company] will be signing with the manufacturer or the consolidator for the Philippines, which is IP Biotech and Ambitech [for example], will mirror the relevant clauses in the tripartite agreement that they will be signing with the NTF and DOH.”
She added, “When you do indicate your interest to purchase a particular brand of vaccine, they will be very transparent with you and give you a clear idea of what will be the terms covered in the tripartite agreement that they are currently negotiating or have signed with the Government.”
“DOH is set to release the IRR for private sector acquisition of vaccines. Private sector was asked in consultative meetings to give inputs. You can be assured that the IRR is since practical,” noted Ms. Romero.
Further, Ms. Romero said that the vaccination is not mandatory, but based on the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Labor Advisory No. 03-21, the employee should not shoulder any cost should the company decide to vaccinate its workers.
On the other hand, Dr. Ubial explained that “[PRC’s] agreement is not to supply the vaccines to the company but to deliver the doses to the employees. I think that’s also what the DOH and the other companies are doing because you cannot establish bakuna centers left and right. It has to be accredited and must follow a very stringent accreditation process by the DOH.”
“What we are doing at Red Cross is we’re getting as many bakuna centers accredited by DOH so that when vaccines arrive, we will deliver the doses … I don’t think that the companies are actually allowed to do their own vaccination unless they become bakuna center accredited,” noted the former DOH Secretary.
With vaccine suppliers not anymore accepting orders for AstraZeneca and Moderna due to the threshold limit, Mr. Garrucho of IP Biotech shared that they are to offer Bharat-IP Biotech's Covaxin, which was recently given a green light by FDA, starting May.
“The initial batch commitment of Bharat-Biotech worth 8 million doses [of Covaxin] deliveries will start to enter the Philippines in May of 2021. We hope that all tranche deliveries will conclude in November of this year,” said Mr. Garrucho.
He added, “Designated representative of IP Biotech are waiting for cases in India to go down because a party is to fly out to India to request/negotiate for a second and much larger set of deliveries for the Philippines and for private market access.”
PEZA Assistance on Vaccine Procurement
“PEZA’s role in this exercise of vaccine procurement [by PEZA-registered companies] is more of an enabler. We can help facilitate the locators’ purchase of vaccines on a per ecozone basis for ease of administration and subject to strict compliance with COVID vaccination protocols. We freely give the decision to our locators to choose their own supplier and administrator of vaccines,” noted the PEZA Chief.
She added that, “PEZA is not in a position to subsidize the cost or advance payment of vaccines for and on behalf of the locators.”
Meanwhile, PEZA Deputy Director General for Policy and Planning Mr. Tereso Panga stated that another assistance PEZA can give to its locators is “the allowance of tax and duty-free importation [for COVID vaccines] subject to the lifting of the EUA,” citing the same reprieve approved by the PEZA Board last year on the importation of PPEs and COVID-related equipment for locators' direct use for the protection of their workers.
“The best COVID vaccine is the one that is readily available. Either you get infected or vaccinated, the choice is yours,” noted Panga as he closed the forum.
As of today, PEZA manages a total of 410 economic zones across the Philippines and has registered about 4,643 locator companies. The ecozone vaccination program is one best way PEZA can contribute to the attainment of herd immunity, which will accelerate the country's full reopening of the economy and transition to the new normal.