Gov’t readies for nationwide vaccination drive

Published January 21, 2021, 7:27 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The government hopes its vaccination drive will push through next month once the first batch of Pfizer and Sinovac vaccines would be delivered to the country, Malacañang said Thursday.

(photo from AFP)

Of the initial vaccines expected to be shipped next month, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Pfizer vaccines might only be available Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao due their cold storage capacity.

The vaccines made by the American pharmaceutical firm, which need to be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius, are part of the COVAX facility or the global initiative to ensure equitable access of the preventive drug.

Other brands of coronavirus vaccines, which only require standard refrigeration, could be delivered to other provinces, Roque added.

“We’re hoping that both we can start in the month of February,” he said during a televised press briefing.

Once the initial shipment of the COVID-19 vaccines arrives in the country next month, Roque said authorities would need 10 days to conduct inventory and prepare for the distribution.

“So, 10 days, eh baka Marso na kung darating po ng February pero sana po nga mapabilisan ‘no, para at least within February may una nang maturukan from Sinovac (So they need 10 days. We might start by March if the supplies arrive in February 20. But we hope it would arrive earlier so at least within February, there will be people who can be vaccinated with Sinovac),” he said.

“Pero kung darating po nang mas maaga iyong Pfizer eh baka naman po kung earlier baka iyong ten days requirement eh within February pa rin po (If Pfizer vaccines will arrive earlier, the 10-day requirement may still fall within February),” he added.

Roque also dispelled notion of any discrimination in the distribution of the vaccines, citing that it was  “science” that dictated the storage requirement of the drugs. 

The government has already secured 30 million doses of vaccines from Novovax, 25 million from Sinovac, 20 million from Moderna, and 17 million million doses from AstraZeneca. 

Citing information from vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., Roque said the country can also expect vaccine doses for 22 percent of the population under the COVAX facility. He said the supplies will arrive in batches of around 100,000 a month.

“COVAX of course is intended to ensure that all middle-income and poor countries have access to the vaccines,” Roque said.

At least P82.5 billion has been set aside to bankroll the government’s procurement of the vaccines. 

The priority beneficiaries include medical frontliners, seniors, poor citizens, and uniformed personnel in areas most affected by the outbreak.