ECC green-lights Rs20b for Chinese vaccine

Hands over procurement responsibility to NDMA; sidelines health ministry 


Shahbaz Rana June 01, 2021

ISLAMABAD:

The government on Monday approved Rs20 billion budget for the procurement of 10 million doses of made-in-China vaccines, and handed over the responsibility to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Earlier, the Ministry of Health was tasked with such matters.

The Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet approved the technical supplementary grant of $130 million that is equal to approximately Rs20 billion for procurement of vaccines, the Ministry of Finance said.

It added that the money will be given to the National Disaster Management Fund to ensure timely procurement of the coronavirus vaccine for effective national response to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

A single dose would cost $13 or Rs2,002, bringing the price of two jabs per person to Rs4,004, according to the Ministry of National Health Services.

The ECC was informed that the third wave of Covid-19 was more challenging than the first two ones.
The funds will be utilised for the procurement of 10 million doses of Covid vaccine during the month of June 2021, said the finance ministry.

During the new financial year, the need for additional funds will be reviewed and additional funds will be provided accordingly, it added.

Initially, the NDMA had sought $500 million grant for the procurement of vaccines between June and December this year. However, the Ministry of Finance agreed to give only $130 million or Rs20 billion for this fiscal year and promised to consider subsequent need of additional funds in the next fiscal year.

The finance ministry again asked the NDMA to seek external loans for the procurement of vaccines instead of requesting money from the budget. The option to reimburse the expenditures on vaccine procurements by the international financial institutions may also be explored, the finance ministry advised.

The administration of vaccine shall be the responsibility of the Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination and Provincial Health Departments but the vaccines will be procured by the NDMA.

Unlike past when the $150 million had been given to the Ministry of National Health Services and Regulations, this time funds are approved to be directly provided to the NDMA. The summary was also moved by the NDMA instead of the health ministry.

The National Coordination Committee on Covid-19 approved to make the NDMA a lead agency for vaccine procurement in the future. The NDMA has been tasked to arrange doses for 70 million population by December 2021.

The estimates based on the current government secured prices suggests that vaccine for 70 million population shall cost $1.5 billion, the ECC was informed.

The NDMA will procure Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines in June, manufactured by China. The Sinopharm is the only Chinese vaccine that has been approved by the World Health Organisation.

To vaccinate 70 million people, the government has a plan to procure 122 million doses, including 1.5 million to keep in reserves, according to the plan approved by the NCOC.

Of these, 20 million will be single-shot Cansino doses and 101 million manufactured by Sinopharm and Sinovac.

However, the ECC was informed that except Sinopharm, no other Chinese vaccine meets the financial eligibility criteria set by the ADB and the WB for lending.

There are three broad criteria: vaccines must be selected through the Gavi-funded Covax programme, approved by the World Health Organisation and authorised by the European regulatory authorities.

The WB and the ADB have so far committed to provide $253 million in loan to procure vaccines. The WB has already approved $153 million last month through restructuring of Pandemic Response Effectiveness Project. The ADB is expected to approve a $100 million loan for vaccine procurement on June 5, the sources said.

In addition to these committee loans, the ADB, AIIB and Islamic Development Bank have promised to give $470 million for procurement of vaccines.

About 20% of the eligible population will be vaccinated through COVAX but its supplies remain uncertain. As against the allocation of 14.7 million doses, only 1.23 million were received till end of May.

The GAVI has not yet shared the schedule for supplies of remaining vaccines, according to the NDMA.

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