The government on Saturday urged local officials to brace for more supplies of COVID-19 vaccines and ramp up their vaccination efforts to reach four million jabs by the end of June.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the government aimed to vaccinate 120,000 people per day beginning next month in Metro Manila with the help of the private sector who already started simulation exercises with the private supply chain experts.
Año said the country had so far received 7,764,050 total vaccine doses from various suppliers including the COVAX facility as of May 11 and 83 percent of this has been distributed to 3,688 vaccination sites across the country.
He said that following the “center of gravity” principle, more vaccines would be allocated to the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, Batangas, Pampanga, Cebu, Davao, and other areas with high number of active cases to contain the spread of COVID.
“Right in the beginning, the private sector is accompanying us in our vaccination efforts and helping the government to inoculate the people, most especially those in the priority list,” said Año.
The DILG secretary also dismissed speculations from Dr. Tony Leachon, a former member of the Philippines COVID-19 panel, that the government might not be able to cope with vaccination as 1.5 million AstraZeneca vaccines delivered on May 8 are set to expire by the end of June.
“The 1.5 million AstraZeneca vaccines have already been deployed to various LGUs nationwide. One million of these will be taken as the first dose while some 525,600 doses have also been reserved for the second dose,” he said.
Año said Dr. Leachon was painting a different picture to create panic and belittle or cast doubt on the government’s capacity to administer the doses.
“During a pandemic, what we need is hope and not speculation. With the current daily average of 60,000 to 70,000 jabs per day, walang masasayang na vaccines at makakarating ito sa mga dapat bakunahan. We can definitely consume the 1.5 million AstraZeneca doses in 30 days as set by Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez,” he added.
Ramped up vaccination
Meanwhile, DILG undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said to brace for the millions of vaccines already distributed and the millions more in the pipeline, the LGUs can prepare by doing microplanning and simulations for ramped up vaccination.
LGUs must identify additional possible vaccination sites, available local cold-chain storage facilities, and transportation mechanisms.
“Additional vaccination sites may also be visited by the DOH if the LGU needs assistance,” he said.
Possible vaccination sites to be utilized for inoculation include infirmaries (private and public), Rural Health Units, health facilities of other government agencies, private clinics, schools, barangay halls, and other open-air establishments.
He also said LGUs must ensure a sufficient vaccination workforce in their localities to support the increase in vaccination. LGUs may engage and include other professionals such as teachers, counselors, pharmacists, medical and allied health professionals and interns; and the private sector as part of the vaccination workforce.
Following the government’s announcement of new quarantine rules starting May 15, Senator Francis Pangilinan said the private sector and the local government units should be given a bigger role in COVID-19 response especially when it came to vaccination.
Pangilinan stressed that the government’s vaccination efforts were inadequate and slow, and that the government needed to speed up its efforts with the help of LGUs and the private sector.
“We have to speed it up. The private sector also wants the vaccination to step up, asking that they be allowed to go ahead with their own vaccinations,” Pangilinan said.
“We saw this from day one. As early as January, we are already saying that unless the private sector takes a bigger role as well as the LGUs, we’re never going to be able to roll it out effectively,” he added.
Health authorities assured the public the vaccines would not be wasted, disclosing at the same time the expiry dates of different COVID-19 vaccine brands currently available in the country.
During the Laging Handa briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire disclosed that the 193,050 Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines, which arrived last Monday, will expire on August 31, 2021.
Meanwhile, the Russian-made Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccines have a six-month shelf life, Vergeire said.
So far, the Philippines received 15,000 first doses of Sputnik V vaccines last May 1 and another 15,000 for component 2 or the second dose last May 12.
Moreover, Vergeire mentioned anew that the newly-arrived 2 million doses AstraZeneca vaccines are set to expire in June and July.
The House of Representatives economic recovery team sought a briefing
on the mega-vaccination campaign that may start by the second semester
of the year, as the government announced the signing of a term sheet with the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer Pfizer BioNTech.
The term sheet is an outline of the conditions attached to the purchase of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda of Albay, chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means as well as co-chairman of the Economic Stimulus and Recovery Cluster of the House Defeat COVID-19 Committee, said the process, based on international procurement standards, was after the term sheet is signed, the buyer — in this case the Philippines — can finalize the purchase order.
Salceda said that “given the bulk order, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez should brief members of the economic stimulus committee to give them a sense of how the Congress can help.
“Congressmen’s district offices are uniquely well-placed to help in the vaccine drive. We have gained some practice, as are implementors of projects such as DOLE TUPAD and cash-for-work programs.”