Monday, 18 January 2021

Big questions about vaccine contracts

“The Government needs to explain whether the New Zealand’s timeline for delivery of Covid 19 vaccines is based on supply constraints or because we’ve signed contracts that give the drug companies discretion to decide which countries need vaccines most,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“It would seem to be an astonishing admission that we have negotiated contracts that give drug companies the freedom to make decisions about who receives vaccines and when for any other reason than their ability to supply contracted volumes of them, but that’s what COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins essentially told Mike Hosking on NewstalkZB this morning.

“Asked why other countries were already receiving vaccines, the Minister said part of the reason was ‘the manufacturers are focusing on sending them to the countries where people are dying every day, and you can understand that.’

“Why are they doing that? Is it because those countries have paid more per dose to get them sooner? Or are the drug companies making value judgments about who deserves them?

“The Minister’s answer implies that we have signed contracts that allow the manufacturers to prioritise other countries over us based on their severity of Covid 19.

“Is that the case?

“If so, it’s entirely possible those countries’ populations will be vaccinated and able to resume normal activities far sooner than New Zealand will.

“While New Zealand has, thankfully, not experienced the loss of life many others have, our experience of Covid 19 has not been easy.

“Thousands of people have lost jobs and businesses.

“We relied on the Government to negotiate vaccine contracts as strongly as possible on our behalf, but an impression is emerging that we’ve negotiated poorly.

“Have we agreed to receive our vaccines later than others to save money, or because our domestic situation is not as severe as in other countries?

“A lot has changed since November when Chris Hipkins proclaimed ‘I think we’re in a very good place to ensure that as vaccines start to come to market New Zealand will be at the front of the queue getting vaccines.’

“Latest data from Bloomberg shows 51 countries have administered almost 40 million doses of vaccine.

“Did they receive their doses at the drug companies’ compassionate discretion or because their Governments negotiated better deals?”