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Finance dep’t backs vaccine tie-ups between gov’t, private sector

GOVERNMENTS need to be open to private sector help in implementing immunization programs, as well as in producing vaccines, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said.

“The private sector brings in efficiency, and frankly in my experience as a government minister, efficiency is not number one in (the government’s) DNA. I think it should be a partnership, where the goals and the profits — the return on investment — are very, very clearly defined,” Mr. Dominguez said during the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) 54th annual meeting.

He said such an approach will ensure a more efficient rollout of vaccines as the private sector brings in its expertise while the government serves as regulator and moderator in case companies start prioritizing profit over the program’s main objectives.

He had also called on for a stronger cooperation between the ADB and Southeast Asia in boosting the region’s capacity to manufacture vaccines.

Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s Minister of Finance, concurred, saying at the meeting that the Indian government and the private sector have worked closely in boosting the country’s supply of vaccines and healthcare capacity.

In a blog post Tuesday, experts from the World Bank and World Health Organization said an “efficient and equitable vaccine rollout” will need the private sector’s involvement as it can supply services that governments do not have the capacity for, can expand the program’s reach to remote areas, bring down costs, ensure that the supply chains are flowing, and expand vaccine supply.

However, they warned that poor cooperation between governments and the private sector, conflicts of interest, gaps in regulation, and low-quality services could emerge as potential challenges.

“Engaging and integrating the private health sector is a challenge, but countries should not shy away from it. Effective governance is not a choice — it is a necessity to overcome bottlenecks and guarantee a rapid, safe and equitable delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine,” according to the blog post.

In the Philippines, private companies were allowed to import their own vaccines through tripartite agreements with the government and drug manufacturers. — Beatrice M. Laforga

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