‘MISCOMMUNICATION” about which sectors are given priority in the national COVID-19 vaccination program, non-appearance of intended vaccine recipients, and the desire of public servants to boost public trust and confidence in the Chinese made-vaccine CoronaVac marked the first week of immunization drive, officials said yesterday.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, in a radio interview, said investigations are ongoing on the implementation of the vaccination program but initial reports said there was a miscommunication between the national and local governments as to who should receive the first batch of vaccines.
The government launched the vaccination program, using CoronaVac from Chinese firm Sinovac, on March 1 in six hospitals in Metro Manila. A second batch of vaccines, this time from the British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca through the COVAX Facility, arrived on March 4.
Nograles said the government is sticking to the priority list which says healthcare workers are first in line for the vaccines, based on deliberations of vaccine panel experts.
The World Health Organization (WHO), which co-leads COVAX, last week said priority should be given to healthcare workers to preserve the healthcare capacity of a country, in case the COVID situation drags on. It said the Philippines could lose its allocation and COVAX may give the supply instead to other countries where the impact of the vaccines will be more useful and practical.
“It looks like sa preliminary assessment, na miscom (miscommunication). Hindi sinadya na mag-jump the line. We’re sticking kung ano ang nasa priority, iyun iyung susundan natin [Based on the preliminary assessment, it appears there was a miscommunication. No one intended to jump the line. We’re sticking kung what is in the priority, we will follow that],” Nograles told radio dzBB.
Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chief-of-staff Michael Salalima, though not in the priority list, were vaccinated last week. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the two officials agreed to be inoculated to boost confidence in the vaccine.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, also chief implementer of the National Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF), expressed belief there was no “cutting the line” in the priority list, after some local government officials and individuals who are not part of the priority group were vaccinated ahead of the health workers.
In a briefing after the rollout of AstraZeneca vaccines at the QualiMed Hospital in Sta. Rosa in Laguna, Galvez also said some local officials were inoculated in a bid to boost the people‘s trust and confidence in the vaccine. He said local officials know that their constituents, including the healthcare workers in their areas, would agree to receive the vaccine if they see others receiving it first and registering no side effects.
Galvez said in some cases, there were more vaccine doses than intended recipients, and to avoid wasting the vaccine, medical teams inoculated other individuals in the venue such as security personnel and hospital workers. He said the vaccines, after leaving cold storage, should be used within a period to avoid losing its efficacy.
NTF Deputy implementer Vince Dizon, acknowledging that some health workers are still waiting for other vaccine brands, said the inoculation of prominent persons from the medical industry, like Philippine General Hospital chief Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, inspired others to register for vaccination, prompting hospitals to request additional doses of the Sinovac vaccine.
Legaspi is the first COVID-19 vaccinee in the country.
Galvez said that to date, at least 100 hospitals have received part of the Sinovac supply donated by China, with 331,000 doses deployed nationwide.
President Duterte last week said an additional 400,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines will be sent by China to raise its vaccine donation to a million doses. No date has been set as to when the additional vaccines will be delivered but 1 million of the 25 million doses of vaccine that the government is buying from Sinovac is set to be delivered between March 21 and 30.
The country last Thursday received the first 487,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines.
Galvez received the the 38,400 additional doses last night. AstraZeneca was supposed to send 525,600 doses but had to reduce the number due to cargo limitations in the commercial flight.
Nograles said there is still no definite date as to when vaccines from Pfizer would be delivered to the country. The country was supposed to receive last month 117,000 doses from Pfizer, also under COVAX, a global initiative to ensure equitable access to vaccines.
US firm Moderna Inc said it has agreed to supply the Philippines 13 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, with deliveries set to begin in mid-2021.
Moderna said it expected to reach a separate deal with the Philippine government and private sector to supply an additional 7 million doses.
Ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez said the supply agreement was finalized on March 6 during a virtual meeting he and Galvez attended along with Patrick Bergstedt, Moderna senior vice president, and businessman Enrique Razon.
“This is the latest agreement that we have concluded for the supply of vaccines from the US. We are trying to get as many as we can from whatever sources so we can vaccinate as many people as we can,” Romualdez said.
Taken in two doses, Moderna has reported a 94 percent efficacy rate.
Romualdez said the country will also get some 6 million doses of vaccine from Johnson&Johnson although he could not give the arrival date.
“Dito kasi sa Amerika may instruction si President Biden na lahat ng kailangang bakuna dapat by the end of May lahat ng mga Amerikano ay nabakunahan na (US President Biden has instructions that all Americans should have been vaccinated by end of May),” Romualdez said.
The PNP yesterday completed the inoculation of 1,196 healthcare workers with CoronaVac, said PNP deputy chief for administration Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar.
Eleazar, concurrent commander of the Administrative Support to Covid-19 Operations Task Force, said the frontliners were vaccinated using 1,200 doses of Sinovac vaccines allocated to the PNP.
Four of the doses were spoiled, said Eleazar. “The spoilage is due to bubbling/ crystals in the vial which is a manufactural defect,” he said.
“Naubos na Sinovac vaccines namin na hawak (We used up the Sinovac vaccines allocated to us),” said Eleazar.
The PNP began inoculating its healthcare workers on March 1. – With Ashzel Hachero, Gerard Naval and Victor Reyes