An initial shipment of 150 doses of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines from British-Swede drugmaker AstraZeneca was deployed to the QualiMed Hospital in Sta. Rosa, Laguna on Sunday, March 7, making it the first recipient of the newly-arrived jabs outside Metro Manila.
The vaccine rollout at the Qualimed Hospital coincided with the same day that the first local transmission of COVID-19 in the country — a 62-year-old woman — was recorded exactly a year ago. She is the wife of the 62-year-old man, considered as the first case without travel history outside the country, who acquired the coronavirus after frequenting a Muslim prayer hall in San Juan City.
Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., vaccine czar and chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, witnessed the vaccine rollout at the QualiMed Hospital with testing czar Vince Dizon, Ayala Corporation President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Fernando Zobel de Ayala, local government officials of Laguna, and other guests.
The first to be inoculated with the AstraZeneca vaccine was Dr. Edwin Mercado, vice chairman of the QualiMed Hospital Network. The QualiMed Hospital in Sta. Rosa, Laguna is one of the four general hospitals of theAyala-owned and managed QualiMed Hospital Network.
According to QualiMed Hospital, “nearly 100 percent” of all of its 378 hospital staff expressed intention to be vaccinated with “whatever brand of vaccine” that is available for them. Aside from the AstraZeneca vaccines, the QualiMed Hospital also received 300 doses of vaccines from China’s Sinovac Biotech.
In his speech, Galvez emphasized the equal distribution of vaccines nationwide due to the rising number of new COVID-19 cases being recorded daily.
“We are monitoring the rise of the new COVID-19 cases and we are trying to compensate that with the deployment of vaccines in the affected areas,” he said.
On Saturday, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 3,439 new cases which pushed the total number of cases in the country to 591,138.
Galvez said among the regions with a fast rate of virus transmission are Metro Manila, Calabarzon (Region 4A or Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon), and Central Visayas (Region 7).
He attributed the fast spread of the virus to the further easing of community quarantine and the opening of economy where more people are allowed to go outside of their homes.
“We are currently reviewing our policies but the main strategy will be the implementation of granular lockdowns. We cannot sustain the general lockdown anymore because it will contract our economy,” he said.
A granular lockdown refers to the containment of a particular street, establishment, or barangay –instead of an entire region– to stem the spread of the virus.
“The way forward is to invest more on the [practice of] minimum health standard. The vaccine only offers an added protection but we should never forget the PDITR strategy,” Galvez noted, referring to the prevention – detection – isolation – treatment – and reintegration strategy of the national government in dealing with the pandemic.
It was also on this day, a year ago, that the DOH raised Code Red Sublevel 1 which was later used by President Duterte as a basis for the declaration of a State of Public Health Emergency all over the country. This eventually resulted in the declaration of Code Red Sublevel 2, the implementation of the community quarantine over Luzon, and its expansion to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) nationwide to stem the spread of the coronavirus.