Sunday, March 7, 2021

Think tank challenges protest over vaccine pricing

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy says much of the protest is due to misinformation and the exclusion of middlemen from vaccine deals.

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A public health think tank today defended the government’s vaccine procurement strategy, saying concerns over pricing are the result of “misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories”.

The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said this is especially in the wake of the vaccine prices revealed by Belgium.

“The Malaysian government has stated that it has allocated RM3 billion for the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines which is expected to cover at least 70% of the population.

“It has not and is not expected to pay RM3 billion for just 10 million vaccines,” Galen CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said.

On the prices revealed by Belgium, he said the list is for the entire European Union, which has a population of 447 million.

“It is not pricing just for Belgium,” he added. “The EU pricing also does not include vaccine logistical costs to vaccination sites.”

In a statement, he said much of the protest over vaccine pricing is also due to the exclusion of middlemen or tender agents from the deals.

“This is what happens when the government deals directly with the supplier and no middle men such as tender agents are involved.

“A lot of public money is saved, and the cost involved is reduced significantly.”

Last month, the government said it had inked a deal with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for a supply of vaccine to be delivered beginning first quarter of 2021.

The initial agreement will see 12.8 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine delivered to immunise 6.4 million people or 20% of Malaysians.

Malaysia has also signed an agreement with the Covax Facility to procure Covid-19 vaccine for 10% of Malaysians.

Azrul said estimates by his centre put the price of the Pfizer vaccine at US$19.50 per dose, meaning a total of about US$249.6 million or RM1 billion.

However, citing the statement by science minister Khairy Jamaluddin in the Dewan Rakyat that Malaysia had secured the vaccine at less than RM100 for a single dose, including the logistical costs which will be handled by Pfizer, he said the total cost for that vaccine would likely be about RM1.2 billion.

“For Covax, we estimate that it would cost RM275 million (RM86 per person) and for AstraZeneca, RM89.6 million (RM28 per person),” he added.

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