CEBU CITY – Almost a million doses of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine donated by the United States government arrived in Cebu before dawn on Wednesday, the Department of Health (DOH) in Region 7 (Central Visayas) said.
In a virtual presser, DOH-7 regional director Dr. Jaime Bernadas said the 994,500 doses of Pfizer vaccine arranged by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will be used to bolster inoculation of senior citizens and the most vulnerable sector in the region.
Bernadas underscored the need to ramp up vaccination efforts for the region’s elderly population after seeing a dismal vaccination coverage of 37 percent.
“Our gratitude to the national government, to President Rodrigo Duterte, and Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino, his presidential assistant for the Visayas, and the US government through WHO (World Health Organization) for having donated the Pfizer vaccines for Region 7. This is the biggest single delivery of Pfizer in the region,” he said.
Michelle Lang-Alli, USAID-Philippines health director, who attended the virtual presser said the latest arrival of Pfizer vaccines in Central Visayas via Cebu was part of the 2.7 million doses that arrived in the Philippines over the weekend.
She said the National Task Force against Covid-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Heather Variava witnessed the arrival of the vaccines.
“The 994,500 doses received today… completes the plan delivery of 5.7 million doses of Pfizer vaccines which have arrived in the Philippines in the past week that were provided by the US and the COVAX facility,” Lang-Alli said.
Lang-Alli cited the DOH-7’s effort to upgrade the capacity of its cold chain facility to store the “largest shipment” of Pfizer vaccine doses from the US, while she assured more deliveries in the next few days.
The USAID official said there were a total of 21.4 million vaccine doses delivered to the Philippines through the COVAX facility, including more than 9 million donated doses.
“The latest vaccine (arrival) will protect at least 2.6 million Filipinos, including the Philippines most vulnerable sector,” she added.
In addition to vaccine deliveries, Lang-Alli said the US government has provided more than PHP1.9 billion to support the Philippine government’s pandemic response, including vaccine delivery and rollout, training for the healthcare workers, strengthening the supply chain, sustaining the local businesses and providing necessary equipment to hospitals, including ventilators, intensive care unit (ICU) beds, and personal protective equipment.
Challenge to dispose
Bernadas challenged local officials in the region to do their part in disposing of the Pfizer jabs to avoid spoilage and wastage given the “very strict” cold storage requirement of this type of vaccine.
“This is a huge task to do, the task at hand to immediately administer these doses to our target priorities in order to achieve more coverage, more specially to our senior citizens and the most vulnerable (sector of the) population,” he said, adding the need to maximize the speedy administration of those jabs.
Bernadas reminded local government units and authorized vaccination centers in the region to adhere to the prioritization policy “as stipulated in the donation.”
Lawyer Lessandro Maraon, Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visyas head executive assistant, said on behalf of Secretary Dino that LGUs and the media are critical in educating the populace to combat vaccine hesitancy and vaccine preference.
“Hopefully, we will change a lot of mindset regarding the vaccine. Even with the supplies coming in, if the people would not be willing to receive the vaccine, it would be useless,” Maraon said.
Jabs for teachers, poll workers
Although no guidelines yet covering political campaigning for the May 9, 2022 national and local elections, Bernadas cited the need to immediately accomplish inoculation for the teachers, as well as election officers and workers.
The DOH-7, he said, is apprehensive with the upcoming elections which might become a critical period for the coronavirus when it would be difficult to avoid the people from moving around, especially the candidates who will be courting votes in different places.
Because of the election, Bernadas said the DOH-7 is hoping to achieve 70 to 80 percent of population protection by the end of this year “to avoid more catastrophic effect(s) of Covid-19 during the campaign period.” (PNA)