Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion stressed that the majority of the wasted COVID-19 vaccines in the country were not under the safekeeping of the private sector.
Concepcion made the statement yesterday, responding to reports that 70 percent of 31.3 million wasted COVID-19 vaccines, with an estimated worth P15.6 billion, were procured by the private sector and local government units.
He shared tallies of its COVID-19 vaccine inventories showing that of the total 23.5 million doses that the private sector secured through a tripartite agreement with government and vaccine manufacturers, 9.398 million doses have expired.
This figure includes the 2.83 million doses it donated to local governments.
He added that the inventory does not include other private sector initiatives. However, he pointed out that these, too, would be under the custody of the government.
Go Negosyo stressed that the private sector has noted that there have been gaps in the government’s monitoring and reporting of the inventory, especially of the vaccines that it donated as part of the tripartite agreement.
It added that because COVID-19 vaccines are still under Emergency Use Authorisation, only government can engage in their purchase and administration, including assessing how many more it needed to buy and add to the private sector donations, and which of the total inventory were nearing their expiry dates so that it can use these first before procuring more.
Among the factors cited by the government as contributing to the wastage of the vaccines were short shelf life and temperature excursion. It also noted from its inventories that some vials were not opened at all.
Other factors also figured in restricting the use of the vaccines, such as the delays in handing down guidelines for administering the vaccines.
“Private sector has always been proactive in pushing for vaccinations,” Concepcion stressed.
“In fact we were the ones asking the HTAC (Health Technology Assessment Council) to adopt the US FDA guidelines just so we can speed up the booster vaccinations,” he added.
Go Negosyo recalled that in July, millions of COVID-19 vaccines worth billions of pesos expired just days after second boosters were allowed for adults 50 years and older, and those 18 to 49 years with comorbidities.
“There are clearly several gaps that led to the expiry of the vaccines,” Concepcion said.
“Some of those gaps we tried to point out, such as the need to listen to the science and real-world data coming from abroad, and to act swiftly considering that our economy is on the line,” he said, adding the need to learn from this experience and lay down guidelines for vaccinations.
Concepcion reiterated his proposal to pre-register vaccinees to avoid vaccine wastage.
In October, Concepcion wrote to Department of Health (DOH) officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire offering to provide the DOH with a list of employees from the private sector who are willing to be vaccinated.
The pre-registration strategy, he stressed, is meant to ensure that the vaccines to be procured by the government will be used.
“Through this pre-registration, we will minimise wastage,” he said.
LGUs, he said, can also adopt the scheme.
The Go Negosyo founder also proposed that the government allow private hospitals and other health care facilities to procure the vaccines, which they can then pass on at cost to those who are eligible.
Vaccines against COVID-19 have yet to become commercially available unless drug manufacturers secure a Certificate of Product Registration for their vaccines.
House deputy Minority Leader France Castro yesterday slammed the DOH over the wasted COVID-19 vaccines.
In a statement, Castro, who is the representative of the ACT Teachers party-list, said the government should not take these wasted vaccines “lightly.”
“This wastage is worth an estimated cost of P15.6 billion of the people’s money… In the end, it’s the people who are at the losing end because they could have benefitted from these wasted vaccines,” she noted.
Earlier Sen. Pia Cayetano revealed that such vaccines were wasted after conferring with Vergeire.
Cayetano reported that among the reasons for the wastage are expiration, short shelf life, damage due to natural disasters as well as damage due to temperature, discoloration and particulate or floating matters.
Castro added the wasted doses comprise 12 percent of the 250.38 million doses received by the Philippines.
She underscored this is above the 10 percent threshold for vaccine wastage set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Meanwhile, the DOH yesterday defended the wastage, saying it is still within the threshold set by WHO.
“It must be noted that the country’s total vaccine wastage is 12.5 percent of the total 250.38 million doses of the country. The WHO specifically said that because of this evolving nature of the pandemic, it is around 25 to 30 percent,” Vergeire said at a press conference yesterday.
She added, “The Philippines considers this as being still within that level that is acceptable.”
Vergeire said it is not out of the ordinary to have 31.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines wasted if it will be compared to the experiences of other countries.
“It is not just the Philippines that is experiencing this kind of situation in terms of logistics and supplies. We are seeing more and more that the other countries are having this kind of expirations or wastage of vaccines,” she noted.
Vergeire, though, stressed that efforts to increase vaccination and booster coverage in the country continue.
“This includes the forging of partnerships among non-government organzations (NGOs) and the private sector. We are intensifying collaboration with NGOs so that, aside from our community vaccination sites, we may also have vaccination sites among our private physicians,” said Vergeire.
“We also have continuous collaboration with large private sector groups, such as SM Malls, Jollibee and McDonald’s,” she added.
Vergeire said this is aside from their regular rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in different local government vaccination sites.
“At the very least, each local government employs different strategies on how they can further improve their coverage,” said the official.
“We also have these vaccination days set from December 5 to 7. It’s a national activity concerning children five to 11 years old and those who need to receive their first booster shots,” said Vergeire.