Davao City execs heave sigh of relief at arrival of 12,000 CoronaVac doses
DAVAO CITY—Officials here heaved a collective sigh of relief over the arrival of 12,000 doses of CoronaVac, the vaccine produced by Chinese company Sinovac and donated by the Chinese government, for injection into at least 6,000 people, mostly health workers, in a city with a population of 1.6 million (2015 census).
The plane carrying the vaccines landed at the Davao International Airport past 6 a.m. on Tuesday (March 2).
Mayor Sara Duterte told the INQUIRER late on Monday (March 1) that the doses were enough for 6,000 peoeple, mostly health care workers at the Southern Philippines Medical Center, one of the biggest hospitals in Mindanao.
Dr. Ashley Lopez, Davao City COVID-19 focal person, said the doses would be stored at the cold chain facility at the Department of Health (DOH) until Friday (March 5) when Health Secretary Francisco Duque and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. were expected to arrive to start the city’s vaccination program.
Aside from the 12,000 doses allotted for Davao City, additional doses for the Davao Regional Medical Center (DRMC) also arrived aboard a Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight. Lopez said he was not privy about the number of doses earmarked for the Tagum City COVID-19 referral hospital in Davao del Norte.
Dr. Ricardo Audan, acting medical chief of SPMC, volunteered to get the first injection among at least 4,000 health professionals, mostly nurses and doctors, who listed up to get the Chinese vaccine.
Audan said he hoped that, by volunteering to be injected first, the gesture would encourage more health workers, who still doubt CoronaVac, to get injected, too.
Lopez said that aside from SPMC health workers, health care workers in private hospitals handling COVID-19 cases in the city would also receive CoronaVac doses.
Expressing relief that the vaccines have already reached the city, Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte said she remained hopeful that other vaccines promised by World Health Organization through its Covax Facility, would also arrive soon.
“We are praying the other vaccines committed to us by WHO Covax will soon arrive, too,” she said, referring to Astra Zeneca and Pfizer-Biontech vaccines.
“We are truly grateful to China for being a true friend of our city and our country,” she said. She also thanked Li Lin, China’s consul general in Davao.
Villafuerte, a medical doctor, also encouraged the public to get injected saying it was the only hope to end the pandemic.
“I urge all adult Dabawenyos, especially our very hardworking health care workers, to have themselves vaccinated, if they qualify,” Villafuerte said.
“Let us strive to end this pandemic by working together to meet our target of 70 percent vaccinated population for herd immunity in our city,” she said.
“This is our best hope to end serious illness and death due to COVID-19 and to enable us to jumpstart our economy,” Villafuerte said.
“Let us have faith in our Lord, who has answered our prayers for vaccines,” she said. “Let us trust science and medicine. Vaccines save lives,” she added.
In Cotabato City, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) expected preferential allocation of initial vaccine supplies from China as these had already been certified as halal, or permissible, by the halal certifying body of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country.
Health authorities in the Bangsamoro region said they preferred halal vaccines.
Dr. Amirel Usman, BARMM health minister, said the Department of Health (DOH) had given assurance that the region would be priority in CoronaVac supply.
BARMM, he said, should be priority because the vaccines that arrived are already halal.
“Sinovac is halal as certified by Indonesian halal certification body,” said Usman.
He said other vaccines, like AstraZeneca and Pfizer, can be certified by the country’s halal certification board once these are available. He said an information campaign had started in BARMM to convince the people that the vaccines were safe and halal.
“We need to educate our people so they will not resist vaccination,” Usman said.
Dr. Zul Qarneyn Abas, member of the Bangsamoro Parliament and deputy health minister, had announced that vaccination would start late this March or early in April when the first batch of vaccines is delivered by the national government.
“We specifically didn’t request for Pfizer because it will require -70°C cold storage facility and we don’t have a warehouse storage with that capacity at the moment,” Abas said.
In Iligan city, at least 200 doctors belonging to the Iligan City Medical Society (IMS) expressed readiness to help in the vaccination of health workers on the frontline.
“We maintain our commitment as volunteers to support the Department of Health and the local government,” said Dr. Andrew Marcilla, IMS vice president.
“As members of the IMS, we volunteer ourselves to be vaccinated, regardless of brand and whether or not it had an efficacy rate of 50 per cent or more. The most important is we get vaccinated,” Marcilla said.
Marcilla also said the group would request the mayor to issue an executive order to allow IMS doctors to prepare to help in vaccination sites in cases of emergency, including adverse reactions during vaccination.
Response to adverse reactions, Marcilla said, “should be given outright right at the vaccination operations center.”
He said medical professionals need to “give immediate appropriate medical attention onsite since we don’t have enough ambulances to transport patients.”
“The essence of time is important to save lives,” he said.
—Germelina Lacorte, Edwin Fernandez, Sheila Mae Dela Cruz, Richel Umel
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