As of January 11, the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has signed vaccine distribution agreements with at least five different cities in Metro Manila. More have signified their intentions to use this vaccine. But why is the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine the apparent choice among local government units (LGUs)?[READ: These LGUs are rolling out their COVID-19 vaccine plans]
While we can’t pinpoint the exact reasons why this vaccine has become the top pick, here are a few factors that might have contributed to the LGUs’ decision.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is among the more affordable vaccine options available.
At P610 for two doses (excluding the cost of logistics and necessary equipment to store the vaccines), this vaccine is one of the most cost-effective in the market. While the final figures from LGUs have yet to be released, this estimate shows just how much a city can save by purchasing vaccines from AstraZeneca instead of other companies like Sinovac (which is one of the most expensive, at about P3,600).
Mass vaccination is a priority among LGUs for them to facilitate a transition to life as we once knew it. Getting more citizens vaccinated means a slower rate of virus transmission. With LGUs within the metro depending mainly on their own funds, it makes sense to consider the price point of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
AstraZeneca’s version of the vaccine is also more accessible than that of other brands, like the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which has to be stored at minus 70 degrees celsius. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored at normal fridge temperatures (which is generally around two to five degrees celsius), which makes it more accessible and easier to store.
For the Pfizer vaccine, LGUs would have to build cold storage facilities and ensure a supply chain with a stable temperature so the vaccines can be stored and transported safely.
Vaccines like Moderna also need cold temperatures to ensure their effectiveness, in this case, a temperature of minus 20 degrees celsius, which is about the temperature of a typical freezer. While the transport and storage of the Moderna vaccine isn’t as complicated as Pfizer’s, it’s still one of the priciest vaccines in the market.
While Moderna and vaccines from Pfizer may have higher efficacy rates than that of AstraZeneca’s (94 and 95 percent, respectively), the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine still shows a considerable efficacy rate of up to 90 percent. Other factors may decrease the vaccine’s effectiveness against the virus, but these results are promising enough for LGUs to pick it among other options.
Sinovac vaccine, on the other hand, shows a general efficacy rate of less than 60 percent, according to reports about its late stage clinical trials in Brazil.
In a nutshell
Taking all these factors into consideration, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is understandably the leading candidate for mass vaccination among LGUs. Not only is it relatively cheaper than the other vaccine candidates, it’s also easier to transport and store, and shows a high efficacy rate.
This leaves one question unanswered, though. If AstraZeneca is the most logical vaccine candidate for mass vaccination in the country, why is the pricier, less effective Sinovac the national government’s pick?