Manila Mayor Isko Moreno shows the biomedical freezers to be used to store Covid-19 vaccines at the Santa Ana Hospital in Manila. (Photo courtesy of the Manila City Public Information Office)
By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — Vaccine czar and National Task Force Against Covid-19 chief implementor retired general Carlito Galvez Jr. has given assurances that the country is ready for the roll out of initial deliveries of anti-coronavirus vaccines with the early inspections of the cold storage facilities that would store the temperature-sensitive vaccines.
Global risk-sharing mechanics COVAX Facility began inspections on Monday, January 18, and will continue doing so until January 29 to ensure the country’s readiness to receive the Covid-19 vaccines that will be delivered starting middle of next month.
Galvez said the inspections would focus on the availability of cold storage facilities for the vaccines and preliminary talks have been initiated with 80 owners of cold storage facilities for both agricultural and pharmaceutical products.
“We are preparing for the pharmaceutical (storage) because we can’t mix them with agricultural products,” he explained in a television interview.
“So we are speaking with (pharmaceutical companies) and other companies with pharma-grade cold chain and they will submit reports immediately. These reports we will also submit to the COVAX Facility so that they will understand that we are more than prepared,” he added.
According to the vaccine czar, once the country’s application to the COVAX Facility is approved, 20 percent of Filipinos will get free Covid-19 vaccines produced by Oxford University-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Janssen, Johnson & Johnson or Novavax.
COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April last year by the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission and France in response to the ongoing coronavirus global pandemic. Bringing together governments, global health organizations, manufacturers, scientists, private sector, civil society and philanthropy, it aims to provide innovative and equitable access to Covid-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.
“It is the only truly global solution to this pandemic because it is the only effort to ensure that people in all corners of the world will get access to Covid-19 vaccines once they are available, regardless of their wealth,” Galvez pointed out.
“For lower-income funded nations, who would otherwise be unable to afford these vaccines, as well as a number of higher-income self-financing countries that have no bilateral deals with manufacturers, COVAX is quite literally a lifeline and the only viable way in which their citizens will get access to Covid-19 vaccines,” he said.
“And for the wealthiest self-financing countries, some of which may also be negotiating bilateral deals with vaccine manufacturers, it serves as an invaluable insurance policy to protect their citizens, both directly and indirectly. On the one hand it will provide direct protection by increasing their chances of securing vaccine doses. Yet, at the same time by procuring Covid-19 vaccines through COVAX, these nations will also indirectly protect their citizens by reducing the chances of resurgence by ensuring that the rest of the world gets access to doses too.”
In San Juan, city officials have begun talks with cold chain storage companies after the national government announced that Pfizer vaccines might be distributed to local governments, on top of the 100,000 doses the city bought from AstraZeneca earlier this month.
Pfizer is among the vaccines with a high efficacy rate at over 90 percent but it needs to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius.
San Juan currently has storage facilities that can only go to as low as 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, the storage temperature required by AstraZeneca vaccines.
“It is not practical for San Juan to build our own (cold storage facility for Pfizer vaccines) because we only have a small population,” San Juan mayor Francis Zamora said in a telephone interview.
The facilities will be mobile in nature, Zamora explained, since the city may be conducting its Covid-19 vaccination program in barangay halls and health centers, covered courts and other government-owned buildings.
On the other hand, Manila mayor Francisco ‘Isko Moreno’ Domagoso said they have already acquired 12 refrigeration units and 50 transport coolers for its vaccine supplies.
Domagoso revealed that three of the storage facilities are from Pfizer which can accommodate a total of 2,877 liters; four are from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson which can store 2,160 liters while five are from Novavax and Sinovac good for 1,950 liters.
“We bought all types of freezer for all types of vaccines. We will have -80 which will come anytime from now from Pfizer, we have -10, -25, positive 8 and positive 2 refrigeration systems to represent the existing vaccine,” he said..
On Monday, Domagoso conducted an inspection of the 130-sq-m refrigeration system at Santa Ana Hospital which was currently undergoing renovation, which is part of the city’s investment because it could also be utilized for other vaccines after the pandemic.
In Taguig City, the local government will be using the 6,500-sqm facility of Orca Cold Chain Solutions in Barangay Bagumbayan to store its Covid-19 vaccines. (AI/MTVN)