Gov’t assures no disruptions in vax purchase, distribution

The government is fully prepared for an orderly coronavirus vaccination and to ensure that there won’t be any “monkey wrench” to disrupt the program in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte has said.

The President  made this commitment during his meeting with top government officials about the procurement and distribution of coronavirus vaccines in Davao City Monday night.

The Chief executive also expressed his  desire to certify as urgent the passage of bills creating an indemnification agreement and advance market commitment to speed up coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine negotiations and deliveries.

During the meeting, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the country was finalizing the preparations for the massive vaccination program, noting that stakeholders were just awaiting the signing of an indemnification clause as well as advance market commitment.

An indemnification clause refers to the agreement reached between stakeholders identifying the party that would take responsibility in case those receiving the jabs experienced adverse side effects.

Duterte  also reminded Galvez to make sure there won’t be any problem in the vaccine arrival and transport to the cold storage facility.

The President directed the Bureau of Customs to release the vaccine when it arrives in the country, saying  there was “no need to tarry a minute longer in releasing the cargoes” of the vaccine.

For his part, Galvez said he was currently communicating with lawmakers, particularly with Sen. Christopher Go, to fast-track the passage of the two pending bills. Senator Go said the President may certify the measures as urgent this week.

Assuring the President that the Philippines was on top of COVID-19 vaccine program preparations, Galvez said they have already fulfilled requirements and agreements with international organizations and companies to proceed with the nationwide inoculation.

These include securing an emergency use authorization (EUA) for vaccines as well as providing necessary documents to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVAX Facility and Gavi, he said.

The country is expecting to receive up to 3 million vaccine doses by the end February from the COVAX Facility, a global alliance seeking to help poor countries vaccinate their population against the deadly coronavirus.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca is no longer accepting COVID-19 vaccine orders from the Philippines and government is now helping local firms secure jabs from another US-based pharmaceutical group, Novavax, an adviser of President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday.

The Philippines has secured 17 million doses of the vaccine from UK’s AstraZeneca, with the help of private firms and local governments.

Presidential adviser on Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said: “The available supply is Novavax. AstraZeneca has no more supply. The 17 million doses will be our last order. I talked to them for a third batch of orders, but they no longer want it because their supply in Europe is short.”

In a related development, billionaire Enrique Razon Jr.’s International Container Terminal Services Inc is leading efforts for firms to secure COVID-19 shots from Moderna, another US-based vaccine maker, Concepcion said.

In other developments, some 34 hospitals in  Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao will receive the first batch of coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, the Department of Health has said.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said 32 of the hospitals are in Metro Manila.  One is in Cebu and another is in Davao.

The DOH met with the hospital administrators last week and instructed them to submit a verified list of vaccine recipients as well as a “quick substitution list” for possible no-shows.

“Most of the hospitals were able to submit the complete list. There are only some hospitals whose quick substitution list is not yet complete,” Vergeire said in a virtual briefing.

The DOH has yet to release the complete list of hospitals that will receive the vaccines.

It earlier said COVID-19 referral centers, big hospitals of local government units, and five private hospitals will be first in line.

Some of the COVID-19 referral centers that will receive vaccines are the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), Lung Center of the Philippines, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium, and the East Avenue Medical Center.

In the same briefing, PGH Director Dr. Gerardo Legaspi said 94 percent of the hospital’s health workers have pre-registered for vaccination.

Legaspi said the PGH would heed the directive of the DOH to vaccinate not just health workers but all other frontline personnel of the hospital.

“We took the assignment [of] being the first hospital to get the vaccine for its healthcare workers very seriously and I think, learning from the experience here, it’s easy to translate it to the different hospitals,” he said.

The delivery of 117,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses was delayed due to the lack of indemnification or compensation for those who will experience serious side effects from vaccines.

The Philippines will receive 5.6 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines in the first quarter of the year through the World Health Organization-led COVAX Facility.

Meanwhile, two of the priority hospitals for COVID-19 vaccination are preparing to receive the first shots of inoculation, officials said Tuesday.

Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital medical director Alfonso Famaran said their  hospital would vaccinate some 1,911 workers in seven  days.

The said hospital is the only remaining COVID-19 referral center for purely mild to critical cases.

The figure includes non-medical frontliners such as security guards and janitorial personnel, Famaran said.

“Our vaccination acceptance percentage is around 90 percent… The remaining 10 percent, their hesitancy comes from the side effects ng vaccine,” Famaran said during an interview on  ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo.

The hospital is conducting information campaign to address vaccine hesitancy, he added.

The vaccination procedure takes around 53 minutes, including the observation period for initial side effects, Famaran said.

The Lung Center of the Philippines has also launched simulations for the arrival of the vaccines, said spokesperson Norbert Francisco.

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