GPO denies it caused delay in Moderna jab deal

GPO denies it caused delay in Moderna jab deal

The Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) is not at fault for leaving a contract to purchase the US-made Moderna vaccine unsigned, which led to claims it caused a delay in procuring the alternative vaccine.

GPO director Vitoon Danwiboon denied the organisation was to blame, insisting it cannot sign the contract until the Private Hospitals Association (PHA) comes up with the money to pay for the vaccine.

"If we go ahead and ink the deal without the budget being finalised first, the GPO cannot accept responsibility.

"The deal involves a large quantity of vaccine and is expensive. We have to wait until they [the PHA] gather the money to put down a deposit first before we proceed to sign the contract with Zuellig Pharma Co," said Dr Vitoon, referring to the importer of the vaccine.

He expected the signing could take place early this month.

About 300 hospitals placed orders for the Moderna vaccine with the GPO which entered into a purchase contract with the manufacturer in the US.

The manufacturing company does not engage directly with private hospitals over vaccine purchases but sells through a state agency.

Speaking at press briefing broadcast via the Thai Kufah webpage yesterday, Dr Vitoon said the GPO contacted the Moderna company for the first time on Feb 25 to express its intention to buy the vaccine.

On Feb 28, Moderna replied that due to huge global demand for the vaccine, the first shipment would arrive in the kingdom in the first quarter of next year.

On April 2, the company said it was in talks with Zuellig Pharma which will be the sole importer of the Moderna vaccine.

Dr Vitoon said Zuellig said on May 15 the Moderna vaccine may only be secured through a government representative, referring to the GPO, given the company's regulation on the use of vaccines in emergency situations.

"As a government representative agency, we contacted the company to buy the vaccine for resale to private hospitals," he said.

After discussions with the company, it was agreed the first shipment would be brought forward from the first quarter of next year to the last quarter of this year. However, the GPO head said the company has kept the shipment timeline broad.

The private hospitals want to procure a total of nine million doses of the Moderna vaccine, he said.

On Friday, it was reported the GPO abruptly submitted a draft purchase contract for the Moderna vaccine to the Office of Attorney General (OAG) after the OAG said it never received the contract.

In a statement, the OAG dismissed media reports saying the draft procurement contract was still under review by the office.

Its remarks came after Dr Vitoon's June 23 comments saying the GPO soon would submit the draft to the OAG.

"If all goes well, the first lot of five million doses of the Moderna vaccine will be sent between October and December, or between January and March next year," he said.

Meanwhile, the government is also procuring 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The vaccine is expected to reach Thai shores in the last quarter of the year.

According to the Department of Disease Control, in charge of the Pfizer procurement, the OAG is likely to finish vetting the vaccine purchase contract tomorrow before forwarding it to the cabinet for endorsement. Some major Bangkok-based private hospitals have stopped taking pre-orders for the Moderna vaccine, saying they are booked.

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