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Can the Philippines achieve a comprehensive, fast and secure delivery of vaccines as needed within 2021?

21 Jan, 2021 by Camille Bello

By Michael K. Raeuber January 19, 2021

IT is my pleasure to provide specific suggestions for a comprehensive, efficient, fast, safe, and secure delivery of Covid-19 vaccines, as severely needed to:

  • Save lives to achieve herd immunity ASAP;
  • Open-up the market and promote the continued growth of our economy;
  • Safeguard our jobs and develop new ones; and
  • Restore some civil liberties and rights as soon as possible, curtailed for understandable reasons to address the pandemic.

Upfront, there are several ways to approach this.

The more ‘socialist approach’­

The government decides and controls all commercial aspects to meet the market demand for vaccines, from accreditation, to financing, purchasing, warehousing, and distribution, and provides emergency vaccination to frontliners, to the very young, the very old, and to the poor who cannot afford to buy vaccines.

However, it is expected that government decides on vaccines with the highest efficacy for the lowest possible price, if not donated or otherwise given for free.

The more ‘capitalist approach’

Given that the government’s more socialistic approach is unlikely to create the high rate of vaccination fast and create the needed herd effect, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should allow the commercial import of vaccines ASAP so that the private sector can have their employees vaccinated. Everybody else will also have then retail access to the needed vaccines.

A combination of both

A combination of both the more “socialistic” and the more “capitalistic” approaches is the way forward to achieve the desired vaccination effect quickly.

That will require that the FDA accredits vaccines but only if proven effective and safe, initially for emergency use and soon after for commercial use. The government further focuses on safeguarding vaccines’ delivery to the poor free of charge and ensuring that the country’s entire geography is covered and commercially unattractive areas are also supplied.

NGO personnel and institutional donors are appreciated to assist the government in expanding the delivery of vaccines to areas beyond the government’s capacity for fast delivery, tapping into available resources of private enterprises.

The force of a free market will ensure that those demands are met most efficiently as possible, paid by a client capable of buying it at market-driven prices. In my view, the combination of both is needed ASAP.

Freedom of choice

AS we have a government whose power and funding emanated from the people, they probably should have the freedom to choose not only their doctors and dentists, but also medicines and vaccines as long as they are approved based on efficacy and safety by the relevant government agencies:

In a pandemic, the government has a vital role in organizing an adequate response for its citizen’s best possible protection and delivering solutions, here vaccines, to the population.

The best way to do this is by utilizing all stakeholders, government (national and local), NGOs, private businesses, all organized along market-driven principles, but in the spirit of a real socially inspired market economy.

Not enabling that potential could spell the difference of one year versus three to five years to remove the current threat caused by Covid-19!

If the private sector is fully engaged, there is sufficient capacity to store and distribute efficiently all presently needed vaccines as long as they are available for import.

Paperwork such as a required NDAs (Non-disclosure agreements) should never delay such a challenge.

Way forward

Can it be done timely and physically—from vaccine arrival through storage to delivery throughout the country to the final injection? It can. Allow me to highlight a few points:

Let’s look at a 100 million doses vaccination process requiring -70C temperature:

400.000 doses of the vaccines requiring -70C temperature fit into one specialized freezing cabinet, so 100 units, which can be purchased (some of them were already), spending just $2 million delivery in a few weeks.

$1 million was already spent by just one company for that purpose. So, at a P40 million doses capacity for storage and assuming only 10 million to be withdrawn for delivery and injection in one month, 60 million will be supplied within six months. After that, the units would be available for other vaccines but hopefully not for the next pandemic.

Pfizer, which is the only one requiring such low temperatures for storing, has delivered dry-iced-based packaging, which allows a time window of 10 days for delivery. So, where is the problem?

Moderna’s vaccine requires a storage and delivery temperature of minus 20C, which can easily be handled by all presently operated reefer trucks and cold stores all over the country. So again, where is the problem?

Reefer containers capable of maintaining a -35 C degree environment are also available in sizeable numbers equipped with available mounted gensets. They can be positioned in the remotest areas, even those without electrical power, as long as diesel is available.

AstraZeneca/Oxford University’s vaccine, FDA approved by several countries, including the UK, Argentina, and India, is probably the most cost-effective vaccine in the market. It is available at an ex-producer facility cost of only $2.50 per dose, perhaps one of the ideal vaccines for the Philippines, as it is cheap, effective, proven safe, tested, and easy to store and deliver under similar conditions as many common medicines.

In conclusion, the quickest economic restart, recovery, and future growth of the economy, safeguarding livelihoods and resurrecting jobs, is in re-empowering millions of people certified immune people, effectively vaccinated, or having gone through the sickness and survived, by the affirmation of their freedom  to move, travel, produce and consume ASAP.

As indicated by the Department of Health last Friday, such vaccination “passport” will be created and issued so that “safe” people can be easily be identified and their freedoms restored.

So, let’s look forward to a Covid-free environment within this year, through a transparent and efficient distribution of vaccines, as fast as possible.

Michael K. Raeuber is the Group CEO of the Royal Cargo Group of companies and is the vice chairman of the Integrity Initiative Inc. Feedback is welcome; please contact him at


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