�� Stay cautious despite vaccine hopes, DOH warns as COVID cases top 400,000 | Inquirer News

Stay cautious despite vaccine hopes, DOH warns as COVID cases top 400,000

By: - Reporter / @jovicyeeINQ
/ 05:36 AM November 12, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Although initial results of the large-scale clinical trial of Pfizer’s candidate COVID-19 vaccine were encouraging, the Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday sought to temper public expectations, advising people to continue to observe preventive health measures, especially as the overall number of coronavirus infections went past 400,000.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire admitted that if the government does procure Pfizer’s vaccine, storing it will prove to be a challenge as the country’s public hospitals and health centers do not have supercold storage units required to keep the vaccine at an extremely low temperature.

And because President Duterte wants at least 20 percent of the population vaccinated, Vergeire said the DOH could not plan for vaccination at hospitals and health centers only.

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“We will get to that point when we need to go to the communities to vaccinate. [With this vaccine], we cannot do that at all because the requirement is an ultralow freezer. So that’s one of our challenges,” she said.

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Other vaccines

Vergeire said the country’s vaccine expert panel was also not considering at this point the possibility of freeze-drying the vaccine to negate the requirement of storage at ultralow temperature.

But Dr. Anna Ong-Lim, president of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines, said not all of the more than 150 vaccines under development had the same makeup and requirements as those of Pfizer’s vaccine.

“Hopefully, there will soon be a vaccine that is friendly to our conditions, that is as effective and will be available as soon as possible so that it will also be an option for us,” said Lim, a member of the DOH’s technical advisory group.

Vergeire said the DOH was already in talks with the private sector for possible partnerships, on top of studies to determine what would be the “most acceptable, appropriate, safe and efficacious” vaccine for Filipinos.

Because of the confidentiality disclosure agreement with Pfizer, Vergeire said the DOH could not disclose just yet how many doses of the vaccine the government planned to buy or if an order had been placed with the American pharmaceutical giant.

The DOH is still working with the Office of the President to find a workaround on the stringent provision of the procurement law that prohibits the payment of items that have yet to be delivered, Vergeire said.

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“As we know many of the manufacturers, partners we are negotiating with are requiring this advance payment. It is currently being studied if it’s possible to have a special exemption from this specific provision of the law because of this pandemic,” she said.

Following Pfizer’s announcement that initial results showed that its candidate vaccine was more than 90 percent effective, President Duterte said the virus that has killed close to 1.3 million worldwide was “no longer scary.”

‘Remain vigilant’

Though Vergeire agreed that the public shouldn’t be cowed, she stressed the need to “remain vigilant, cautious and aware” and to continue to observe the health measures meant to curb the spread of the virus.

“We have to temper our expectations. It must still be grounded on the reality that the virus is still here and we need to observe our preventive measures,” she said.

Eight months since the first local coronavirus case was recorded, the Philippines breached the 400,000 mark on Wednesday, logging 1,672 additional cases that brought the overall number of confirmed infections to 401,416.

Cavite reported the most number of new cases, 100, followed by Davao City (99), Quezon City (81), Batangas (78) and Baguio City (70).

The DOH said 311 more patients had recovered, raising the total number of COVID-19 survivors to 362,217. The death toll, however, rose to 7,710 as 49 more patients succumbed to the severe respiratory disease.

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The recoveries and deaths left the country with 31,489 active cases, of which 83.3 percent were mild, 9.4 percent asymptomatic, 2.5 percent severe, and 4.6 percent critical.

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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TAGS: coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, DoH

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