Vaccinating all health workers won’t take a month, says Roque

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    GOVERNMENT hopes to complete vaccinating about 1.4 million health and medical frontliners and other hospital workers within a month starting this February, as it looks forward to the delivery of the first batch of vaccine doses this week.

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, in an interview with radio dzBB yesterday, said if the first batch of vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) arrives as scheduled, the vaccination can start by February 15 in a hospital in Metro Manila.

    “Inaasahan po natin na lahat po noong mga nasa paunang frontliners natin na mahigit-kumulang mga 1.4 million, lahat naman po iyan ay mabibigyan… definitely, hindi po aabot ng isang buwan para matapos natin ang lahat ng mga medical frontliners (We expect that all frontliners, which more or less totals to 1.4 million, all of them will be given vaccine … definitely, it will not take a whole month to finish the vaccination of medical frontliners),” he said.

    Roque said the government eyes the start of the inoculation of the other priority sectors to start before the month ends.

    He said the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), which is one of the hospitals where the first batch of vaccines would be used, has 5,000 names in its list.

    Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. has said frontliners from 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 will be among the first to be vaccinated.

    Under the vaccination priority list of the Interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (iNITAG), the first or “A” priority list are A1 — frontline workers in health facilities both national and local, private and public, health professionals and non-professionals like students, nursing aides, janitors, barangay health workers, etc.; (A2) senior citizens aged 60 year and older; (A3) persons with comorbidities not otherwise included in the preceding categories; (A4) frontline personnel in essential sectors including uniformed personnel and those in working sectors identified by the IATF as essential during enhanced community quarantine; and A5 – indigent population not otherwise included in the preceding categories
    The second priority or “B” list is composed of B1 — teachers and social workers; B2 – other government workers; B3 — other essential workers; B4 – socio-demographic groups at significantly higher risk other than senior citizens and indigenous people; B5 – overseas Filipino workers; B6 — other remaining workforce.

    In the third priority or “C” list are the rest of the Filipino population not otherwise included in any of the A and B groups.

    Vaccination will first be done on health and hospital workers in COVID-19 dedicated hospitals, followed by those from COVID-19 referral hospitals, Department of Health-supervised hospitals, local government unit-supervised hospitals, hospitals for uniformed services/personnel, and private hospitals.

    Roque said apart from the 117,000 doses of vaccines from Pfizer Inc, the government is using the more than 5 million doses from AstraZeneca PLC during the first batch of inoculation. The Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are given to the country under the COVAX Facility and separate from the vaccines being purchased by the government from the two companies.

    Galvez, in an interview with radio dzRH yesterday, said the World Health Organization-led COVAX Facility said they expect the first batch of vaccines- the 117,000 doses from Pfizer – to be delivered this week.

    “Nakausap natin ang taga-WHO at GAVI (Alliance). Ngayong darating na linggo and possible date na darating na po iyung Pfizer na 117,000 (We talked with WHO and GAVI.

    This week is the possible date for the delivery of Pfizer which is for 117,000 doses),” he said.

    He said AstraZeneca is expected to deliver 5.2 million doses starting this month while Sinovac will deliver 50,000 as soon as the Food and Drug Administration issues an emergency use authorization (EUA) to the private Chinese firm. The Sinovac vaccine is part of the 25 million doses being bought by the Philippines from China.

    Galvez said from the airport, the vaccines will be brought to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and other cold chain storage facilities where they will be inspected, checked and stored until they are sent to the hospitals where the vaccinations would be held.

    He said they intend to first inoculate the medical, health and hospital workers at one hospital and administer the vaccines in another hospital the next day and so on.

    Galvez said the government cannot do simultaneous vaccination proceedings in one day because it would be the first time to use such a vaccine and they would still need to observe and determine the impact of the vaccine on the Filipinos.

    He said that apart from Metro Manila, they intend to bring the first batch of vaccines to Davao and Cebu which both cold storage facilities. He said they would inspect the facilities of the Southern Philippine Medical Center in Davao and the Vicente Sotto Medical Center in Cebu on February 16 and 18, respectively.

    He said the local government units and hospitals in Metro Manila are all ready to receive the vaccine. The bulk of delivery and inoculation is expected in the third and fourth quarter of the year.

    Galvez said they are hoping there would not be any delay in the delivery of the vaccines, which could affect the timeline of the government.

    The government targets to vaccinate 50 million to 70 million Filipinos this year.

    Galvez said minors or those 16 years and younger are still not included in the list of vaccine beneficiaries while extra precaution would be taken if they proceed to vaccinate people with ailments.

    He reiterated that government officials are willing to go first, if needed, if it will convince more people to be vaccinated.