A ‘good’ problem? PH faces logistics issues as COVID-19 jab stockpile reaches 49 M

Published November 3, 2021, 12:54 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The country has a total of 49,595,696 doses of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines that are stored in national cold storage facilities and have yet to be distributed to local government units (LGUs) due to issues on logistics.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. attends President Duterte’s “Talk to the People” public address which was aired on Nov. 3, 2021. (Screenshot from RTVM / PTV)

Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr., vaccine czar and chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, said the problem on the transportation of the vaccines to the provinces, cities, and municipalities shall be addressed immediately to speed up the vaccination program and hit the target of inoculating around 50 to 70 million Filipinos by the end of 2021.

“Almost 49 million na po ang nasa storage kaya ho talagang mini-meet natin ang different regions at probinsya at different municipalities na palakasin ang capacity para magkaroon sila ng higher capacity of doing jabs per day and procure their own cold storage system para makapag-imbak ng mga bakuna (We almost have 49 million in our storage that’s why we are meeting [local chief executives] in different regions, provinces, and municipalities to strengthen and increase their capacity in doing the jabs per day, and procure their own cold storage system so they can store the vaccines),” Galvez said during President Duterte’s ‘Talk to the People’ address that was aired on Wednesday, Nov. 3.

Galvez said there was no problem on the distribution of the vaccines at the national government but the issue lies on the capacity of the LGUs to administer the vaccines.

He explained that they cannot give LGUs excess supplies if they are not capable of handling them due to lack of storage since the precious jabs will only be spoiled.

(Screenshot from RTVM / PTV)

To solve the dilemma, he encouraged LGUs to increase their daily vaccination outputs so the surplus supplies at the national level will be distributed down to the local level.

The government aims to administer one million to 1.5 million doses daily but the vaccination output only reached 442,441 doses in October. The highest daily output was 724,924 in the said month.

Meanwhile, Duterte proposed that the transportation assets of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) be used by the NTF to help deliver the vaccines to far-flung and geographically isolated areas which are difficult to be reached via land travel.

Aside from logistics, vaccine hesitancy among Filipinos is also one of the problems that slows down the vaccination program in the provinces. This, despite the repeated reminders of the national government that all the jabs being used in the country are safe and effective.

Brand preference is also a big factor why some provinces could not immediately distribute a particular brand of vaccine to the LGUs which prefer Western-made jabs.

At present, the country has already received 108,912,460 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, of which, more than 59,316,764 doses have already been administered nationwide.

The remaining 49 million doses in the stockpile can support the vaccination program until December, according to Galvez.

“Ang logistics distribution at mobilization sa baba, sa provincial, municipal, at barangay ay ito po ang ia-address natin in the succeeding days (We will address the logistics and mobilization [issues] at the provincial, municipal, and barangay level in the succeeding days),” the vaccine czar promised.