PH gov’t eyes roll out of COVID vaccination by end of 2021 or early 2022 – Galvez

Robie de Guzman   •   November 25, 2020   •   246

MANILA, Philippines – The government is looking to roll out its COVID-19 vaccination program by end of 2021 or early 2022, National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said Wednesday.

“Ang best case scenario po is second quarter, ang worst case scenario o realistic scenario ay end of the year or early 2022,” Galvez said during a public briefing when asked about the target date for mass immunization.

He said the government is still in talks with vaccine developers for the possible procurement of COVID-19 vaccine.

Results of vaccine trials to be held in the country starting December will also take a while or until the first quarter of 2021 to be released.

The government is eyeing to inoculate 60 million to 70 million Filipinos to achieve herd immunity – a vaccination term in which a population becomes protected from a particular virus after reaching a threshold or certain number of vaccinated people.

Galvez earlier said that the vaccine deployment will be based on geography, giving top priority to areas with high cases of coronavirus infections, then the priority sectors identified by authorities.

The vaccination may also be completed within 3 to 5 years as the government is capable of only immunizing 20 million to 30 million people a year, he said.

With this in mind, Galvez said the government has already come up with a list of 35 million people who will get the vaccine first.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said that poor Filipinos, medical frontliners, the military, and police will be prioritized in the vaccine distribution. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Lacson accepts Galvez’s apology over ‘politicizing’ remark on COVID-19 vaccine issue

Robie de Guzman   •   January 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday said he has accepted the apology of vaccine czar and National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. for his previous remark accusing some senators of politicizing the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

“I accepted his apology. He promised to be more careful in issuing statements,” Lacson said in a statement.

The senator said Galvez apologized during a meeting with him, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senator Ronald dela Rosa, and contact tracing czar Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong on Wednesday.

But prior to their meeting, Lacson said he received a message from Magalong, relaying Galvez’s request to meet with him to apologize for his remarks during virtual meeting last week.

“He also promised to brief me and disclose all the details of their vaccine procurement, including the prices of the different brands,” he said.

“Then came the instruction of President Rodrigo Duterte to Sec. Galvez to brief Senate President Vicente Sotto III. I suggested to them that SP Sotto and I just go together, along with Sen. Ronald de la Rosa,” he added.

During the meeting, Lacson said that Galvez was able to clarify “a lot of issues and concerns raised by senators that have remained unresolved until last night.”

“We advised him to explain in tomorrow’s hearing the same way that he did last night, without violating the terms of the agreement with the vaccine suppliers,” he added.

The Senate is set to resume its inquiry on Friday, January 22 on the government’s nationwide immunization plan.

Lacson said he was satisfied with Galvez’s briefing but advised the official to be vigilant against any irregularity that may be taking place without his knowledge.

“We were shown the documents. And we have no doubt about Sec. Galvez’s integrity and his sincerity to accomplish his task,” he said.

“That said, we advised Sec. Galvez to mind his back, front, left and right sides. He may have the best of intentions but there may be people pushing him out front to do the talking and explaining to take advantage of his credibility while pursuing their own interests,” he added.

Lacson said that Galvez has assured senators that he will make it “very hard for those people to even have an opening for that opportunity.”

Galvez wants genome test on Davao City COVID-19 samples to check for new variant

Robie de Guzman   •   January 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The city government of Davao is set to submit specimens of patients with novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Metro Manila to check for the possible presence of new coronavirus variant amid the spike of new cases in the city.

Dr. Ashley Lopez, the city’s COVID-19 focal person, said vaccine czar and National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez issued the directive on Wednesday after seeing a worrisome uptick in new infections in the city.

Lopez said the specimens of COVID-19 patients recorded this month will be sent to the RITM for a genomic analysis.

While the increase in COVID-19 cases in the city could have been due to a post-holiday surge, he said authorities cannot discount the possibility that a new variant may have entered its borders through the porous backdoor channels in some areas in Mindanao, including Cotabato City, Zamboanga City, Sarangani Province and General Santos City.

Malaysia, the country’s closest neighbor, has already confirmed a case of the new variant.

Lopez said the Task Force Davao and the city’s Public Safety and Security Command Center have implemented stricter restrictions at the borders to regulate the entry of people.

Data from the Department of Health-Davao Region showed that from January 1 to 23, 2021 alone, Davao City recorded 1,222 new infections, which is 33% higher than the number reported from December 19 to 31, 2020. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Lucille Lloren)



Probe on PSG COVID-19 vaccination to push through – FDA

Robie de Guzman   •   January 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday said it will push through with its investigation into the unauthorized inoculation of COVID-19 vaccine to some members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG).

FDA Director-General Eric Domingo issued this statement even after President Rodrigo Duterte told his security detail to keep mum should lawmakers ask them about their vaccination.

Duterte’s order to the PSG prompted the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to call off its investigation into the controversial immunization.

Domingo said the president’s directive only applies to congressional hearings.

“Ang FDA po mayroong set po ng proseso kung paano po naming hina-handle at ini-investigate ang mga complaint at mga reports na mga ganito,” he said during a public briefing.

“Itutuloy naman po namin ‘yun according to process laid down by FDA,” he added.

The National Bureau of Investigation is also conducting a separate probe into the issue.

Malacañang earlier lauded the security group’s courage in taking an unregistered vaccine as part of their mission to protect the health and safety of the president. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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