Vaccine payments must come first, says GPO
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Vaccine payments must come first, says GPO

High cost of Moderna one reason behind slow procurement process, says director

A healthcare worker holds a vial of the Moderna vaccine at a vaccination site in New York City. (Reuters photo)
A healthcare worker holds a vial of the Moderna vaccine at a vaccination site in New York City. (Reuters photo)

The Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) says it has to wait for payment to be submitted to it first before it can place a supply agreement for the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on behalf of private hospitals

The high cost of the US-made vaccine was one of the reasons the purchase could not be made as quickly as anticipated, GPO director Withoon Danwiboon told reporters on Saturday.

“This vaccine is not one of the five bought by the government so the process is quite long,” he said.

Five vaccines are under the government’s free programme — Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Sputnik V. Others, classified as alternative vaccines, including Moderna, are provided by private hospitals which will charge for them plus insurance and service fees.

“We have to work with more than 300 hospitals nationwide to come up with a number they want to buy, which today stands at 9 million doses,” Dr Withoon said.

Once the order is placed, probably in early August, 4 million doses will be shipped this year and the rest will come next year, he said, insisting on the original schedule.

The GPO has been under fire for being slow to make the purchase after Dr Boon Vanasin of the SET-listed Thonburi Healthcare Group this week quoted a friend at Moderna as saying that the supply agreement for Thailand had not even been signed and the countdown could not begin until it was.

Dr Withoon explained the GPO had its own limitations.

“If we sign the agreement when there is no real demand, we can’t take the responsibility since the vaccine is expensive. Our plan is, therefore, to sign the contract in the first week of August,” he said.

He said the agreement had already been drafted and sent to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for review on Friday.

He warned the agreement might also require cabinet consideration as it involved issues beyond the authority of the GPO, signalling a further delay.

But if everything goes according to plan, he said, Thailand will get its first batch of Moderna vaccine in the last quarter of this year.

He added the GPO was also monitoring the development progress of other vaccines, including those under clinical trials in Thailand.

“The vaccine being developed by the GPO has already completed the first phase with promising results. The second phase will begin late this month or by Aug 10 at the latest,” he added.

Private hospitals started accepting payments from buyers for alternative vaccines this week. By Saturday, many had suspended the process, saying demand had already outstripped their reserved quotas.

The GPO has set the price of the vaccine it will sell to private hospitals at 1,100 baht a dose. Private hospitals are charging 1,650 baht per dose.

As for Pfizer, a vaccine under the free programme, the cabinet will consider approving the supply agreement on Tuesday after the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) approved its use in mid-April.

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