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Asean to buy vaccines in bulk

During the conference, stakeholders and advocates gathered to discuss comprehensive solutions for the introduction of new vaccines and programs to eradicate illnesses. File

SINGAPORE – The Philippines and nine other countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are looking at the possibility of buying in bulk to address the issue on supply inadequacy of affordable vaccines in the region.

Zulkifli Ismail, member of the ROTA Council for Malaysia and secretary general of the Asia Pacific Pediatric Association, said the lack of supplies and expensive pricing were raised during three-day 6th Asian Vaccine Conference held here from April 27 to 29.

“The ASEAN is looking to work for whole procurement of vaccines. The 10 ASEAN countries will have to talk to each other and agree on certain vaccines and buy them in bulk so that prices will decrease,” Ismael told The STAR.

During the conference, stakeholders and advocates gathered to discuss comprehensive solutions for the introduction of new vaccines and programs to eradicate illnesses.

Ismael noted that ASEAN nations currently buy their vaccines separately thus losing the bargaining power with pharmaceutical companies when it comes to prices and quality. 

“There was an issue on vaccine shortage and vaccine safety... We are trying to follow what PAHO, the Pan American Health Organization, is doing,” Ismael added.

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It is through the PAHO funds that almost all countries in Latin America purchase their vaccines. This assures them of the supply, quality and prices of the vaccines.

Aside from bulk procurement, Ismail said they are also looking at the development of vaccines within the region.

“We have three vaccine producers in Asia – Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam – so we can develop this capacity. Malaysia is going to that direction. But we don’t have to compete with each other. We can work with each other and develop the vaccines... This is the direction that ASEAN should be going,” he added.  

Tony Nelson, ROTA Council member for Hong Kong and consultant at the Department of Pediatrics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the uptake of vaccines in Asia is “low” when compared with Latin American nations.

He explained that Latin America has a unique system that uses a centralized special revolving fund “so all countries can buy vaccines at quite low and affordable prices.”

Nelson maintained while the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (helps poor countries get vaccines at lower prices, “I think some of them are worried that when they get richer they will no longer get this special price from GAVI so it’s becoming more challenging.”

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