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News Article

Possibilities, Barriers to Corporate Vaccination

By Miriam Bello | Wed, 06/23/2021 - 16:19

Corporate COVID-19 vaccination is already a reality in Japan. But while similar initiatives have been attempted in other countries, few have succeeded.

Private companies have approached manufacturers to widen the reach of vaccine rollouts and accelerate immunization. But there are different factors that inhibit the process as the COVID-19 vaccine supply remains limited, with purchases done exclusive through the public sector.  

In Mexico, however, has a successful example of a private company arranging the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines. In November 2020, Mexico received 32 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine through a partnership between Landsteiner Scientific and the Russian Direct Investments Fund (RDIF), reported the Mexican pharmaceutical on an official communicate. These vaccines were distributed by Landsteiner Scientific but the article provides no more detail on who received the doses.

Private companies are mainly receiving vaccines through the government. For instance, in the US pharmacy chains in Walmart, Walgreens or CVS are official COVID-19 vaccine distributers, although the primary purchase is carried out by the government.

Japan’s corporate rollouts are a similar to those of the US.  Japan's vaccination program chief Taro Kono explained that the government has been accepting applications from companies and local governments to administer Moderna vaccines in workplaces and at mass vaccination centers. Associated Press reported that about 3,500 companies have signed up for the free vaccines, and that number is growing. Interested companies must present a plan to inoculate at least 1,000 people per site but, unlike in the US, these companies decide whom to include, such as families, affiliate companies and suppliers. The latter strategy has been a long-time goal for many companies in Mexico.

The Duke Global Health Innovation Center explained that purchasing vaccines to provide them to end users has been a global trend by private companies. “Where vaccines are sold directly to the public through private sector pharmacy chains or provided by employers, it can reduce the cost burden for governments that have not been able yet to purchase enough vaccine for their population," explained the center.

This subject has received widespread attention in Mexico. President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador addressed in January 2021, stating that if any company or local government wanted to acquire COVID-19 vaccines independently, they have authorization. “Only, they must attach to the application the contract for the purchase of the vaccines, the quantity and the name of the pharmaceutical company. Also, they must indicate where they are going to administer them so that there are no duplications. We are going to fulfill our commitment to vaccinate all Mexicans.”

However, pharmaceutical companies have committed their doses to governments until the first half of the year, so it would be necessary to wait until then, representatives of the private sector told Expansion. Moreover, the private sector cannot intervene in vaccine rollout as vaccines for emergency use are impossible to acquire for companies, explained Jesse Damstra, CEO of Philips México, during Mexico Business Forum. “However, the US FDA is already exploring working with the private sector based on the industries’ interest and the pressure to get vaccines,” he said.

The size of the order is also relevant, as mentioned by President López Obrador. On January 2021, the government of Nuevo Leon met with the state’s Ministry of Health to the purchase 3.8 million COVID-19 vaccines, with a unit price between US$4 and US$33. Minister of Health of Nuevo Leon Manuel de la O. Cavazos said to meet the required amount the government met with the Secretary of the Economy, mayors, businessmen, hospital directors and university deans, who are part of the Vaccine Acquisition Committee. “We are in contact with laboratories or intermediaries. The approach is to acquire (the vaccines) in the first and second semesters,” he said at a press conference.

Photo by:   Mat Napo on Unsplash
Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst