"Handling the vaccine is no joke."
The COVID-19 infection in due time will peter out, but not before testing governments on the logistical nightmare they must hurdle in distributing vaccines to a great majority of the population.
The Philippines by this time should have drawn up a comprehensive plan to store and transport the vaccine to the initial target population, and later to the rest of the nation. The massive distribution program must involve the private sector, which has more resources than the government, logistics-wise.
The United States has laid out an exhaustive plan to deal with COVID-19 as early as April this year when it launched Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership dealing with the development, production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. The program aims to initially produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines as early as next month. The US is now accelerating Operation Warp Speed as more candidate vaccines successfully passed clinical trials.
For the Philippines, importing and distributing the vaccine will be a delicate operation. One multinational company is already making preparations for the establishment of cold storage facilities and the transportation of COVID-19 vaccines after the successful trial of several drug candidates. Zuellig Pharma has committed to aggressively expand its cold storage warehouse capacity in key regional markets over the next 12 months, including those in the Philippines, in preparation for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Handling the vaccines is no joke. They will have to be transported and stored in very low temperatures ranging from -20 to -80 degrees centigrade. Logistics firms may have to upgrade their transportation vans that will carry the vaccines from the airport to the cold storage facilities to prevent the drug products from rotting.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. claimed the government has identified a list of 35 million Filipinos who will get priority access to vaccines against COVID-19, that will be available either by the second quarter of 2021 or by the middle of 2021. The Philippines, he says, aims to vaccinate 60 million to 70 million Filipinos in five years to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Galvez has a daunting task which the next administration will inherit. His office must effectively distribute the vaccine without fear or favor. With the next elections just less than two years away, politics should not get in the way of his job.