Group wants pneumonia vaccine purchase halted over alleged bidding anomaly
MANILA, Philippines — A consumer group has urged the government to temporarily suspend the procurement of pneumonia vaccines because the bidding process allegedly went awry.
The United Filipino Consumers and Commuters, represented by former Abakada Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, on Wednesday has asked the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) to temporarily suspend the procurement of pneumonia vaccines while their case is pending.
The group also asked the PCC to “consider and permanently allow other equally effective pneumonia vaccine candidates to be included in the procurement process.
It said only two companies—Pfizer Incorporated and Zuellig Pharma Corporation– have been participating in the process of being the only distributor of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV).
Dela Cruz said that based on UFCC’s investigation, the two private corporations have allegedly committed antitrust practices. In claiming that the two companies have a “strategic partnership” and “vertical relationship,” Dela Cruz cited in his complaint a 2016 announcement from Zuellig Pharma of their regional partnership with Pfizer, with the former providing sales and marketing services to the latter in Thailand.
“These practices result in higher vaccine costs and lesser coverage for the Filipino people,” Dela Cruz said.
INQUIRER.net contacted Pfizer and Zuellig Pharma via email for comment.
Pfizer said it would respond as soon as it could, while Zuellig Pharma had not responded yet.
Open the bidding
Dela Cruz stressed the “urgent need” to open the competition for PCV procurement, thus calling the attention of the Department of Health to consider and permanently allow other “equally effective” pneumonia vaccines to be included in the bidding process.
When reached for comment, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told INQUIRER.net that he would refer the case to DOH’s Bids and Awards committee, who processed the procurement following the provisions of the Government Procurement Reform Act.
Duque also said the DOH is still waiting for the formal copy of the complaint the group lodged to PCC.
“The group has not provided us any copy of the complaint document but rest assured I am having our legal service and internal audit service look into this,” Duque told INQUIRER.net in a separate text message.
Citing Philippine Statistics Authority, Cruz said pneumonia is still the fourth leading cause of death in 2020.
“Thus, pneumonia vaccines should not be a privilege but a basic necessity properly provided by the government to the Filipino people, especially the poor,” he added.
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