Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi has reiterated his directive to local power stakeholders to ensure “reliable and stable” supply of electricity for the cold storage needs of sensitive coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines.
This, as Cusi acknowledged the “damage” caused to 348 vials of Coronavac–the vaccine manufactured by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.–by a power outage in Makilala town, North Cotabato and the subsequent boo-boo of municipal workers there.
“I urge the diligence of everyone concerned so that this incident will not happen again. We cannot afford negligence or even a simple overlook to derail and affect the government’s vaccination drive,” he said in a statement over the weekend.
The DOE chief said that as per the report of Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco), a power outage occurred in Makilala at around 1:30 p.m. on Friday, May 7 that lasted for one hour and 30 minutes.
“It was one of the affected lines during the multiple outages in South and North Cotabato due to strong winds,” he said.
“In this particular case in Cotabato, the vaccine cooling equipment (freezer) was transferred to a genset supply by their municipal health workers. Unfortunately, and for whatever reason, it wasn’t connected back to the main line when the power came back,” Cusi said.
He said it took two days before town workers realized that the freezer they were using to store the Coronavac jabs had not been running.
“You will recall that as early as February, we have been working with the members of the Energy family to ensure that the vaccines will be protected at all cost when it is rolled out nationwide,” Cusi noted.
“The Department of Energy- Electric Power Industry Management Bureau (DOE-EPIMB) and the Task Force on Energy Resiliency (TFER) have worked together in undertaking a ‘triple safeguard’ approach to securing power services in vaccine storage and administration sites. The approach is similar to what was employed during the 2019 Southeast Asian Games which the country hosted,” he explained.
“Based on this protocol, there would be three power backups. The first line would be coming from the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), the second from the Distribution Utilities, while the third and final back up would be the generators provided by the facility itself or the local government unit (LGU),” he added.
The Sinovac vaccines need to be stored at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, which is achievable with a standard refrigerator. As long as its turned on, of course.
Cusi said DOE will issue reminders to the electric cooperatives (ECs) and LGUs (local government units) about the protocol in case similar incidents occur.
“If needed, the DOE is ready to work with the LGUs to conduct some lectures or seminars on what to do when outages occur,” he said.