Villanueva urges gov’t to conduct vaccination ‘practice runs’ to test manpower needs, readiness

Villanueva urges gov’t to conduct vaccination ‘practice runs’ to test manpower needs, readiness

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — While waiting for the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, the government should conduct “practice runs” that will test the readiness of the country’s health infrastructure to vaccinate millions of people, according to Senator Joel Villanueva.

Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee explained that “test runs” would also allow the government to “fix kinks, plug manpower shortages, and give a realistic idea on how long would it take to inject a certain number of people.”

“This is an important ‘dress rehearsal’ we cannot do without,” Villanueva said in a statement.

“Kung wala pong ‘Take 2’ ang mass vaccination, hindi ba dapat choreographed na ito?” the lawmaker added, noting the countries like the United States held “simulated exercises of injecting of vaccines into the arms of volunteers. They did practice runs and they timed each phase from taking ‘boxes’ out warehouses, loading these into planes, and trucking them to local hubs under police escort. And then finally bringing them to administering sites where volunteers were waiting,”

Villanueva said the same could be done here “so that when Vaccination Day comes we already know the drill. The last thing we need is ‘organized chaos’ to spoil the day we have been waiting for.”

Such test runs will also gauge if enough manpower is available, Villanueva said. “It is a readiness and adequacy test that will measure if we have enough health personnel on the ground.”

“It will also tell us if we have enough equipment to transport and store the vaccines. Sapat na po ba ang bilang ng mga freezers?” he added.

Villanueva said these practice runs would serve as a “stress test” for the whole vaccine supply chain, pointing out that “we should already determine the weakest links in the chain and start addressing these.”

At the last hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole, Villanueva reiterated his appeal to IATF officials to present their vaccination plan, particularly its manpower requirement. Given that the plan to secure 148 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, the lawmaker estimated that the vaccination drive would need to administer about 421,000 doses a day for the rest of the year.

“Does the national government have the adequate resource capacity to achieve this? How many more healthcare workers would be needed? Will there be changes in the emergency hiring strategy?” the lawmaker asked.

He likewise sought assurances from the Department of Health that it should ensure healthcare workers are paid on time, including their special risk allowances and other benefits due to them.

The Senate resumes its public hearing into the government’s vaccination program on Friday, with the Committee of the Whole convening in the morning. (AI/MTVN)

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