Hopes up as PH vaccination program 'nearing' Israel's standards — Galvez

Published June 26, 2021, 3:22 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. declared Saturday, June 26, that the country’s vaccination program against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is close to achieving the standards set by Israel, one of the few countries with a successful COVID-19 response.

(From left to right) Israeli experts Adam Segal, Dafna Segol, and Ben Zaken share their country’s best practices on COVID-19 response with the National Task Force Against COVID-19 in a meeting at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on June 21, 2021. (File photo courtesy of NTF Against COVID-19)

Galvez made the remark after Israeli medical experts Adam Nicholas Segal, Dafna Segol, and Avraham Ben Zaken concluded their visit into the country on Friday. The experts stayed from June 20 to 25 to assess and help improve the government’s COVID-19 response, particularly its vaccination program.

“The Philippines’ vaccination program is nearing with their (Israel) standards,” Galvez said.

The vaccine czar said the Israeli delegates were “impressed with the level of professionalism” of the country’s logistics and cold-chain service providers, who deliver the vaccines to the communities from the warehouse facilities.

“We didn’t know what to expect when we came here but we’re really impressed. It seems that you have very well planned [systems], you thought about it all. It’s not like we came here and we discover missing bits and pieces. You have it all placed,” said Segol, a consultant on Israel’s healthcare policy and innovation.

Meanwhile, Segal, a logistics and operations manager, acknowledged the country’s efficient vaccine rollout strategy where the jabs are distributed to all of the 17 regions.

The NTF is using the “hub and spokes” strategy in storing and distributing the vaccines from the main warehouses to the provinces where they are needed.

Through this strategy, a hub or warehouse is established each in Metro Manila (for Luzon), Cebu (Visayas), and Davao (Mindanao) where the bulk of supply of vaccines are stored. The vaccines are then sourced out to the “spokes” or the provinces, cities, and municipalities if there are available supplies.

To improve the current system, Segal suggested to simplify the delivery and distribution of vaccines through the establishment of warehouses in each regions, as well as packaging the trays or vials in smaller units while keeping them chilled.

He said this system would be crucial especially in transporting and deploying the vaccines to rural communities as the vials will have minimal movement because of the smaller packaging.

Segal also advised the government to develop a more efficient system for securing and deploying ancillary supplies such as syringes to ensure the smooth implementation of the vaccination in the communities.

He pointed out that sourcing these supplies from different suppliers and manufacturers outside the country “can be challenging,” thus, there should be a more systematic procurement and deployment strategy.

“This approach will prevent incidents wherein the vaccine doses are deployed to provinces and regions without the necessary ancillary supplies,” he said.

Israel rolled out its vaccination program in September 2020.

Since then, their government has fully vaccinated 57 percent of its total 9.2 million population wherein 90 percent of those aged 50 and above have completed their inoculation.

After seven months or in April this year, Israel already lifted its mask-wearing policy as the country recorded less than 15 cases per day.

Israel has recorded a total of 840,000 cases including 6,500 deaths.

Mass testing

Meanwhile, the Israeli delegation also underscored the importance of testing and how it effectively complements the vaccination rollout.

Galvez said the RT-PCR tests in Israel are usually released within four hours. In the country, it is usually finished and processed in 12 to 24 hours.

The vaccine czar vowed to implement adjustments to improve the country’s testing system.

Data management

The Israeli experts also suggested to improve the country’s data management as it “provides a focused approach on how to manage and streamline operational systems and procedures.”

Segal lauded the government for having the ability to gather and consolidate information on the mmunization drive every 24 hours although he said this process “may still pose certain challenges.”

Galvez said that the NTF is working on developing its capacity to post real-time data and updates as one of the challenges is the transmission of information from the provincial to the national level.

Tourism revival

The Israeli team also offered recommendations on how the national and local governments can safely reopen their tourism and leisure sectors, which are major contributors to the country’s economy.

Zaken, deputy director general of the Ichilov Medical Center, ISrael’s primary healthcare institution, said that reopening the country’s economy “should be done in a gradual manner.”

“Opening must be very slowly, it needs to be connected to the amount of people who are ill and the situation in the hospital,” he said.

During an exit conference in Taguig City, Galvez thanked the Israeli experts for sharing their best practices with the country’s task force officials.

“The recommendations from the delegation has certainly provided a major boost to the country’s National Vaccination Program, as well as its Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate (PDITR) Strategy,” he said.