By Romer R. Butuyan
MANILA – Ranking officials of the House of Representatives have underscored the need for government’s proactive and ample response on the expected arrival of millions of dosage of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines in the country, particularly in handling of the highly valuable medicine.
Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur 2nd Dist. Rep. Johnny Pimentel recommended the listing of all private, public cold chain logistics solutions, so as to identify where the vaccines could be stored once it reaches PH shores.
“The vaccination of an initial batch of 35 million Filipinos is bound to call for the mobilization of a wide-range of cold storage assets – from temperature-controlled refrigerated trucking services to ample supplies of dry ice,” Pimentel, a COVID-19 survivor, added.
According to American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc., which jointly developed the vaccine with German biotech firm BioNTech SE, it has designed distribution containers that can keep the shots at the required temperature of negative 70 degrees Celsius for 10 days if unopened.
The distribution containers can also be used for temporary storage in a vaccination facility, such as hospitals, for up to 30 days as long as they are reloaded with dry ice every five days.
Once thawed, the vaccines can be stored in a refrigerator at two to eight degrees Celsius for up to five days.
For this reason, Pimentel pointed out that the country’s COVID-19 immunization campaign will require the comprehensive listing of all available cold chain logistics solutions – including those in the possession of private corporations – that can be marshalled to rapidly deploy the vaccines.
Bill seeking for Covid-19 vaccine safekeeping filed
Meanwhile, Quezon City 2nd Dist. Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo has filed House Bill No. 8000 mandating the state to prepare cold storage facilities for storing and safekeeping of Covid-19 vaccines in anticipation of their arrival and mass distribution to the Filipino people.
If passed into law, the bill empowers the Department of Health to “urgently prepare for the provision” of such facilities “in accordance with specifications that are suitable for the safekeeping of the vaccines.”
“Establishing or finding safe storage facilities with such specification and standard in Metro Manila, the regions and in provinces, cities and towns, will be a big challenge for the DOH,” the lady House Deputy Majority Leader stressed.
Top 5K businesses to shoulder inoculation cost for 5M Pinoy workers
House Committee on Health Vice-Chairman and Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, for his part, is expecting the nation’s top 5,000 private corporations to draw up their own plans to immunize their employees against COVID-19.
“As part of their business sustainability management, we are counting on our largest private firms to arrange and spend for the mass vaccination of their respective workforces,” he said.
“They have the wherewithal to vaccinate their workers through their in-house clinics or the facilities of their private health maintenance organizations (HMOs),” Defensor pointed out.
According to Anakalusugan party-list lawmaker, there are estimated five million Filipinos currently employed by the top 5,000 firms alone, which include multinational corporations in the labor-intensive and information technology-enabled business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.
“The direct participation of big private employers in the COVID-19 immunization campaign will lessen the financial and logistical burden on the government. This will allow DOH to concentrate on vaccinating disadvantaged Filipinos, such as those in the informal economy,” Defensor said.
“If private corporations can immunize their own employees, then the government will have five million Filipinos less to target for vaccination,” he added. (AI/FC/MTVN)