Health workers in 4 Metro Manila hospitals to get first Covid shots
MANILA, Philippines — Health-care workers in four Covid-19 referral hospitals in Metro Manila will be the first to be inoculated against the severe respiratory disease once vaccine supplies arrive this month, the head of the government’s vaccination program said on Wednesday.
Carlito Galvez Jr., who handles vaccine procurement for the government’s coronavirus response, identified the hospitals as the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, Lung Center of the Philippines and East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City, and Dr. Jose Natalio Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center (Tala Hospital) in Caloocan City.
“We will prioritize the four referral hospitals in Metro Manila. It won’t take long, we will just inspect it for two to three days and then conduct vaccinations immediately,” Galvez, who is also the head of the National Task Force Against Covid-19, told a news briefing.
Next in line are health-care workers in other Covid-19 referral hospitals in Metro Manila, Cebu City and Davao City, Galvez said.
1.7M health workers
Earlier, the government said 1.7 million front-line health workers were on its priority list for vaccination.
Other groups on the list are indigent senior citizens, other elderly people, and uniformed personnel.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said at the same news briefing that the master list of health-care workers to be vaccinated would be ready by Feb. 15.
She said the list would be encoded in an electronic Covid-19 immunization registry, to which hospitals could upload their lists of workers to be vaccinated.
Vergeire said a “unique identifier” would be assigned to each health worker to avoid duplication and track the progress of vaccinated workers.
The Department of Health (DOH) will also have a monitoring system for adverse events, or side effects, after vaccinations, she said.
Vergeire also said the DOH would consider a 5 percent wastage of vaccines due to storage and distribution problems or withdrawal of recipients as “acceptable.”
“We have to keep it as minimum as possible because every dose will count. These Covid-19 vaccines are needed badly by all of us Filipinos,” she said.
Galvez said the government would study a proposal to include national athletes and coaches participating in the Southeast Asian Games in November in the priority list.
“They are not yet included in the list because the World Health Organization’s listing is very stringent,” he said. “Anyway, there is ample time for them to have the vaccination.”
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the temporary body overseeing the government’s coronavirus response, will see if there are excess vaccines that may be given to the athletes, Galvez said.
Vergeire said the single-dose Covid-19 vaccine developed by the U.S. pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson would be beneficial to the Philippines because administering it would be “operationally simple.”
She said it would take only one dose of the vaccine to achieve the efficacy and immunity to the coronavirus.
The vaccine is known as Janssen and it does not need to be stored in very low temperatures.
Vergeire said the government was negotiating with Johnson & Johnson for 10 million doses of the vaccine.
1M doses of Pfizer
Galvez said the Philippines would request 900,000 more doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine from the global vaccine sharing scheme COVAX to raise the initial supply of 117,000 doses to 1 million.
“The COVAX agreement states that if we can have a submission for an additional 900,000 [doses] to make our Pfizer vaccines reach 1 million, so we’re doing that. We are now preparing the letter and we will submit it before Feb. 14,” Galvez said.
Vergeire said the easing of quarantine restrictions would not be hinged on the implementation of the vaccination program.
“The Covid-19 vaccination is just an add-on factor, where to ease restrictions or not at this point in time where the vaccine will come in tranches. We will still have to see if the vaccine can block [coronavirus] transmission,” Vergeire said.
On Wednesday, the DOH reported 1,266 additional coronavirus infections, bringing the overall number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country to 530,118.
The DOH said 130 more patients had recovered, raising the total number of Covid-19 survivors to 487,721. But the death toll rose to 10,942, as 68 other patients had succumbed to the disease.
The deaths and recoveries left the country with 31,455 active cases, of which 88.8 percent were mild, 5.8 percent asymptomatic, 0.53 percent moderate, 2.4 percent severe, and 2.5 percent critical. —WITH A REPORT FROM PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU
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