Budget Watch

Garin questions disparity in prices of pneumonia vaccines in DOH procurement

Bonz Magsambol
Defending the prices of the pneumonia vaccine the DOH is procuring, Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje says the increase in prices is due to a global shortage for the pneumonia vaccine

Iloilo Representative Janette Garin questioned the disparity in prices of pneumonia vaccines for children and senior citizens in the Department of Health’s (DOH) procurement.

During the House hearing on the 2021 DOH budget on Monday, September 14, Garin asked why the price of pneumonia vaccine for children – called Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine or PCV 13 – went up to P830 per dose when the DOH was able to get it for only P770 per vaccine dose in the previous years.

According to Garin, the DOH was able to buy 1.9 million doses for P770 per dose back then, but then the DOH is procuring 5.9 million dose of the same vaccine for P830 per dose this year.

“Surprisingly, Mr. Speaker, it’s coming from the same company and the same supplier,” Garin said.

Garin said this implies that if the country will buy a pricey vaccine, only a few will benefit.

“Sa panahon ng pandemya, dapat mas mura ang bibilihin natin para marami ang ating mabili,” Garin said. (In this time of pandemic, we should be buying less expensive items so we could buy more of it.)

Aside from PCV13, Garin also said that the price of pneumonia vaccine for senior citizens went up to P342 from P524.

Due to ‘global shortage’

Defending the prices of the pneumonia vaccine the DOH procured, DOH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said the increase in prices was due to a global shortage for the pneumonia vaccines.

“Tinaasan po ang presyo (They increased the price) because of shortage,” Cabotaje said.

But Garin, who is also a former heath secretary, seemed unconvinced.

“Ang global shortage kaso ginagawa na lang ‘yang rason para taasan ang presyo (They’re making global shortage as an excuse so they could raise the price). But vaccines are sold at rates, and are highly-regulated,” Garin said.

According to Garin, the government should be negotiating for prices instead of agreeing to the ceiling price of companies.

“The government is the biggest procurement entity kaya mas kaya natin makipag negotiate sa kanila kaysa magpatali (and that’s why we can always negotiate instead of accepting a high price). We cannot just accept the reason that there is global shortage, because you have the FDA ( The Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration) that controls their permit and a government that regulates prices,” Garin said.

Under the P203.74-billion budget of the DOH, P10 billion is allocated for the procurement of vaccines, including P2.5 billion for COVID-19 vaccines of frontliners and indigent senior citizens.

Due to the lack of a clear explanation regarding the budget allocated for a health facilities enhancement program, lawmakers moved to suspend the approval of the DOH’s budget. – Rappler.com

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.