MANILA – A lawmaker on Saturday stressed the need to prioritize and fast-track the training of personnel at the local government level on the proper storage, handling, and administration of the highly temperature-sensitive vaccine against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said the training would help prevent drug wastage and ensure the success of the government’s vaccination drive when the anti-Covid shots become available in the provinces.
Villafuerte said the government should also ensure that the staff handling the vaccines in the communities are familiar with the hierarchy of priorities on who should get the vaccines; how these doses should be stored, especially in localities where there are no available cold storage facilities; and how to properly administer the shots to the target-beneficiaries.
“In CamSur, we already have a list of the priority beneficiaries across the province, as well as the list of front-liners who are to administer the vaccines,” he said. “But our front-liners need to be properly trained on how to administer the shots. LGU (local government unit) staff should also be trained on the proper storage of the meds.”
Villafuerte cited a World Health Organization (WHO) study reporting that while 85 percent of 128 countries had come up with their inoculation plans, only 30 percent trained people to give the shots and only 27 percent had drawn up public information campaigns.
The study further noted that important matters, such as advocacy, community engagement, and risk and safety communication, “remain largely unaddressed” as a result of the lack of training and information drive.
“Because a majority of those to be targeted for vaccination will most probably get their doses in the second or third quarter, there’s still enough time for the government to train personnel in the provinces on the proper handling and storage of the vaccines, and how to properly administer the jabs,” he said.
Villafuerte noted that the government needs to draw up and implement down to the cities and municipalities the guidelines on the safe and effective transport, storage, and administration of the Covid-19 vaccines as soon as these arrive from overseas and are delivered to the provinces.
The government should also deal with various challenges, such as doubts over the vaccine, a distrust with the implementing government, lack of facilities/workforce, limited vaccine supply, shipping delays arising from border controls, and the rise of new Covid-19 variants.
Allow the private sector to bring in tax-free vaccine
Meanwhile, Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo urged the government to allow private companies to import tax-free Covid-19 vaccine for their employees and families.
“This is the only way the government can speed up vaccination and attain its goal of achieving herd immunity this year by inoculating at least 70 million of the country’s more than 100 million population,” Castelo said.
She said almost three weeks since March 1 when vaccines donated by China and provided by the WHO were rolled out, the vaccination program is still progressing at “snail’s pace”.
Castelo cited Department of Health data showing that about 216,000 front-line workers had received the first dose of the vaccine as of March 16.
“At that rate, it would take years, perhaps decades, before the government can meet its target of vaccinating at least 70 million Filipinos,” she said.
Castelo said allowing private businesses to bring in tax-free vaccines for their personnel and families would greatly hasten the implementation of the vaccination program.
“These companies are willing to do it at their own expense. The government will not be spending for their vaccine procurement,” she said, adding that with the private sector helping, the government could use part of the vaccine funds for Covid-19 response measures, such as the acquisition of personal protective equipment for health workers and a new round of financial assistance to the poor.
Castelo said the government’s national vaccination task force should hasten the forging of tripartite arrangements with private companies and even local government units (LGUs) raring to procure their vaccines.
“The task force should quickly enter into such agreement with any private business owner or LGU wanting to bring in the jabs. Otherwise, achieving herd immunity so we can all return to normal life is asking for the moon,” she said. (PNA)