FAIR COMMENT | Alito L. Malinao
The bayanihan spirit that we Filipinos are known for has been exhibited during the three typhoons that hit the country with an unprecedented cooperation shown by military and civilian groups in rescuing thousands of victims some of them on rooftops or caught in raging floodwaters.
That spirit of selfless devotion to serve our countrymen in distress is something that we can all be proud of.
Now, we have another example of this selfless dedication to a greater cause: fighting the pandemic so that we can return to normal life.
It is heartening to note that the private sector has banded together to help the government in procuring anti-Covid vaccines in spite of the losses that they have incurred during the work stoppages and lockdowns.
According to Joey Concepcion, presidential adviser for entrepreneurship, the private sector would donate up to 2.6 million doses of AstraZeneca, the vaccine developed by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company.
Concepcion, whose family owns the Conception Industries, signed the tripartite agreement on November 27 on behalf of the private sector. The other signatories were National Task Force Against Covid-19 chief implementor Carlito Galvez, Jr., and AstraSeneca executive Lotis Ramin.
Acccording to Concepcion, half of the 2.6 doses will be used for employees of the private sector and the other half will be donated to the Department of Health (DoH) primarily for frontliners.
Galvez, however, clarified that the government has other options aside from the deal with AstroZeneca. The government has earlier announced that it had explored Sinovac, the vaccine from China, and Sputnik 5 that has been developed by Russia.
So far among the possible vaccines being considered by the government, AstraZenaca appears to be the cheapest and equally safe and effective. It is expected to cost $10 or P500 for two doses. On the contrary, vaccines developed by U.S. giant pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and Moderna would cost much higher. Pfizer’s vaccine is expected to cost $19.50 or roughly P1,000 Moderna’s would cost $25 or P1,250.
Another advantage of AstraZeneca is that it can be stored, transported and handled at standard refrigerated conditions of between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit for at least six months.
The competing vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer required ultra-cold storage facilities that are not available in the Philippines and other developing countries.
Another important advantage of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is being tested in collaboration with a larger number of global sites, is that it should cost less because of AstraZeneca’s commitment to COVAX, a global initiative that aims to distribute low-cost vaccines to low-and middle-income
countries. Pfizer and Moderna have not joined the COVAX initiative. AstraZeneca has agreed to make the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis for the duration of the pandemic.
Since the cost of AstraZeneca vaccine is affordable to most Filipinos, why can’t the government assist private hospitals and local pharmaceutical firms to acquire the vaccine and sell it to the general public? Of course, we have to ascertain first if the vaccine will be available. And if this is sold for profit, the price could be a little more.
My wife and I are injected with the five-year anti-pneumonia vaccine which cost us P3.500 per shot, way more expensive than the anti-Covid vaccine. In the U.S. I have been told the anti-pneumonia vaccine is given free to senior citizens.