Associations hoping to aid vaccine access

August 18, 2021 | 18:00
Business associations are looking for new vaccine procurement schemes to maintain business continuity.
Associations hoping to aid vaccine access
Associations hoping to aid vaccine access, Illustration photo

Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee last week sent an urgent document to the Ministry of Health (MoH) to report on the purchase and import of five million doses of Moderna vaccine. It requested the MoH to allow public-private partnerships and organise the collection of vaccination fees.

According to Duong Anh Duc, Deputy Chairman of the committee, on June 15 the city got the nod from Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam on the purchase and import of vaccines. Since then, the city sent a letter to Saigon Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. (Sapharco) under VinaCapital to conduct negotiations with Moderna vaccine distributor Zuellig Pharma to buy five million doses for the city.

After several discussions, the municipal authorities approved the contents of the draft MoU with Sapharco, VinaCapital, and Zuellig Pharma. On July 7, Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee issued Official Letter No.2261 assigning Sapharco and VinaCapital to negotiate the deal.

Sapharco has said it is working on a draft contract with Moderna representatives. If everything goes well, the vaccine doses are expected to be delivered in the fourth quarter of 2021 or the start of 2022. The company also requested that at least two million Moderna doses are delivered to the city in October, and is negotiating to have at least 10 million additional doses by the second quarter of next year as booster shots.

Earlier, the four industry trade groups of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association, the Vietnam Leather, Footwear, and Handbag Association, the Vietnam Electronic Industries Association, and the Handicraft and Wood Industry Association of Ho Chi Minh City also sought the prime minister’s approval to buy vaccines from a company in the United Arab Emirates to provide free injections to their employees. The trade groups will pay for the vaccines in a hope to ensure production and avoid supply chain disruptions.

Last week, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh greenlit the four trade groups’ proposals and instructed the MoH to negotiate with the UAE’s company to purchase, preserve, and organise vaccinations.

Foreign associations are looking at innovative schemes to secure vaccines. “We have seen the pandemic continue to be unpredictable and widespread in Vietnam, and many German companies have been feeling the initial impact of the virus. There is a number of investors from Germany who must postpone their investment plans or even stop planned constructions due to the current situation,” said Marko Walde, chief representative of the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Vietnam (AHK Vietnam).

“We have been trying to access the vaccines ourselves, directly with the support of the authorities at the national and provincial level,” he added. “The most challenging factors are the huge demand and the initiative at the governmental level. In other words, the global demand for vaccines dwarfs the supply, and it is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure vaccines are available worldwide.”

AHK Vietnam is now in contact with several vaccination manufacturers, with the support of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, on the purpose of getting hundreds of thousands of doses for Vietnam, especially for German companies here and their local employees. With this initiative, AHK Vietnam hopes to support Vietnam in accelerating vaccinations and find the way out of this pandemic.

According to Mary Tarnowka, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Vietnam, it is supporting the Vietnamese government’s goals of controlling the virus and enabling economic growth. AmCham has strongly advocated for US vaccines and welcomes the five million doses of Moderna that the US government has donated to Vietnam. She added that AmCham has not sought priority access, but urges Vietnam to carry out a transparent, equitable, and efficient distribution process, according to stated priority risk groups.

“We welcome workers in industrial zones being identified as a priority group, and more vaccines being sent to Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Duong, Dong Nai, and other hard-hit areas. We hope that these can qualify for early vaccines access,” Tarnowka said.

AmCham members have also expressed willingness to pay for vaccines. A survey carried out by AmCham a few months ago found that over 90 per cent of the companies were willing to pay for vaccines for their employees and, in some cases, for family members as well.

“That said, the companies wanted to ensure they would not be jumping the queue for current vaccine stocks over other higher pri- ority risk groups,” Tarnowka said. “I am not aware whether any of our member companies are participating in this scheme with the UAE company. But I know many would be willing to pay for approved vaccines to ensure the health and safety of their workers, as well as enable resumption and continuity of operations.”

By Thanh Van

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