Ice cream makers proposed to store virus vaccines

Published October 10, 2020, 11:33 AM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

A senator has proposed to the Department of Health (DoH) to tap ice cream manufacturers for storing COVID-19 vaccines.  

During the Senate committee hearing on the proposed 2021 budget of the DoH Friday, Sen. Francis Tolentino raised the idea of using the cold-storage facilities of ice cream makers as he stressed the need for proper storage to prevent the spoilage of the coronavirus vaccines and wastage of government funds.

He said specialized freezers with at least -82°C temperature are required to preserve the vaccines for delivery in provinces, especially with the country’s tropical climate.

He noted that American pharmaceutical firm Johnson & Johnson has advised all their potential clients that the vaccine they developed needs -10°C freezer — a cold storage the DoH doesn’t have at the moment, he said.

DoH Undersecretary Carol Taiño said there was no allocation for COVID-19 vaccine storage in the P290-million “regular” warehousing funds that the agency was requesting for 2021. She said they are currently using the vaccine storage facility at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City.

“I am offering a policy solution: Why don’t you at this earliest stage, touch base — Magnolia Ice Cream, Selecta Ice Cream, and all other ice cream manufacturers — to utilize their ice cream storage facilities. Kung hindi, dadagsa po ‘yong ero-eroplanong bakuna na walang paglalagyan at masisira lamang (Because of we don’t, vaccines will arrive in droves and we won’t have storage faciities for these so they will end up spoiling),” Tolentino suggested.

DoH Secretary Francisco Duque III  said talks are ongoing about the COVID-19 vaccine storage. But he noted that each vaccine has their “unique specifications.”

In the same hearing, Tolentino insisted anew that the DoH, and not the Department of Science and Technology (DoST), should lead the efforts regarding the conduct of clinical trials in the country.