SINGAPORE (REUTERS) – Zuellig Pharma, Moderna’s supply partner for Covid-19 vaccines in South-east Asia, said on Tuesday (June 29) that regional orders for the mRNA vaccine were almost fully booked for this year, highlighting procurement challenges for countries slow off the mark.

Singapore-headquartered Zuellig is involved in the distribution, regulatory approvals and purchase contracts for Moderna’s vaccines for use in South-east Asia, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

“A lot of the transactions that are being done today will be for 2022 … because the supply of Moderna vaccine is pretty much exhausted already for 2021,” Zuellig CEO John Graham told Reuters.

Graham said there will be some availability towards the end of this year.

“But one should assume that if you’re starting to negotiate today, you’re looking at 2022 before you get any supply,” he added.

Still, the situation could change depending the supply dynamics, he said.

Procurement efforts in the region have been hastened by a coronavirus flare-up in recent months that has exacerbated stubborn epidemics in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines and tested authorities in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore, where earlier outbreaks had been quickly contained.

Graham declined to provide specifics on negotiations or deals, citing confidentiality.

Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Taiwan are among those that have sought or signed deals for Moderna or have already begun receiving vaccine batches.

“There are also countries that are already purchasing vaccine for booster (shots) in 2022-2023,” he added. “There’s a race to get the supply.”