PH gov’t not favoring any firm in COVID-19 vaccine procurement – Dizon

Robie de Guzman   •   January 12, 2021   •   289

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is not favoring any pharmaceutical company in the procurement of a vaccine against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Secretary Vince Dizon, the government’s testing czar and deputy chief implementer of the National Action Plan against COVID-19, said.

During a Senate hearing on the government’s COVID-19 vaccination plan on Monday, Dizon stressed that the government is pursuing the safety and efficacy of a vaccine and is negotiating with all companies that have developed a potential vaccine against the virus.

“Wala po tayong policy na pinapaboran ang isang vaccine o isang bansa. Lahat po ng vaccines na safe and effective ay ipu-pursue ng national government, vaccine czar, at vaccine cluster,” he said.

Dizon made the remark after Senator Richard Gordon said that the Philippines seems to be lagging behind other countries in terms of procuring COVID-19 vaccines.

Gordon also surmised that the Philippines is favoring a Chinese-made vaccine with the hope that its supply could be given for free.

“Hindi kaya pinagbibigyan natin yung isang bansa diyan na gustong magbili sa atin pero medyo nakaantala yun sa atin dahil umaasa tayo na makakakuha tayo ng libre,” he said.

“Mayroong mga nagsulat na sinasabi eh may preference raw ang administrasyon sa Chinese medicine… I hope that’s not the reason bakit tayo medyo nahuli as you said,” he added.

Dizon assured that that is not the case and that the government is currently working on securing supply deals with other vaccine manufacturers.

Negotiations with pharmaceutical companies are also on final stages, he added.

Malacañang earlier said the government has already secured 25 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from China’s Sinovac. An initial batch of 50,000 doses of this vaccine will be delivered in the country by next month.

Apart from China’s Sinovac, the government said it is also eyeing to roll out in February the distribution of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine via the COVAX facility.

The COVAX facility is a platform that seeks to ensure fast and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

PH gov’t to increase COVID-19 testing up to 90K a day – Dizon

Robie de Guzman   •   March 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The government is looking to ramp up the number of COVID-19 tests in Metro Manila and nearby provinces especially amid the enforcement of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), testing czar Vince Dizon said Tuesday.

“Sinabi na po ni IATF chairperson na si (Health) Secretary Francisco Duque na mag-ramp up tayo ng ating testing and detection dito sa NCR (National Capital Region), Bulacan, Cavite, and Rizal lalong-lalo na ngayong panahon ng ECQ,” Dizon said during a Palace online briefing.

Dizon said they are eyeing to increase the COVID-19 tests up to 90,000 per day.

To achieve this, the testing czar said the government will be using antigen test kits validated by the World Health Organization, through its emergency use listing, and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) along with the RT-PCR test.

He said antigen tests will be used in areas with high number of COVID-19 cases such as Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal – collectively tagged as the ‘NCR Plus’ bubble.

Dizon said the use of antigen test kits will help the government in immediately identifying those infected with coronavirus as it can yield faster results.

The test kits will also be used in hospitals to test suspected patients and healthcare workers.

“Ito rin po ang gagamitin ng mga mayor para magtest sa mga lugar, lalo na sa mga barangay na mataas ang kaso,” he added.

Currently, the country conducts more than 51,000 RT-PCR tests a day.

Dizon said the government will procure additional 30,000 antigen test kits along with the RT-PCR tests to achieve the targeted 90,000 tests per day. He, however, noted that these kits will only be limited to the NCR Plus area.

The testing czar further stated that the 500,000 antigen test kits, as announced earlier by the Malacañang, are still being procured by the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD).

The OCD is only allowed to purchase the antigen kits brands Panbio COVID-19 Ag rapid test kit, SD Biosensor test kit, and Lansion test kit.

“Ang target po natin ay mag-procure ang OCD ng 500,000 antigen test kits para mai-deploy sa mga communities at iba’t ibang ospital sa ECQ area,” he said.

Dizon also reported that the country so far has 239 testing laboratories all over the country.

Sinovac COVID-19 vax arrives in Bangsamoro Region

Robie de Guzman   •   March 4, 2021

The allocated batch of the donated CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccines developed by Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has arrived in the region.

In a statement, the Bangsamoro health minister said 4,200 vials of Sinovac vaccines arrived on Thursday at the Cotabato Airport. Its arrival was welcomed by officials of the Ministry of Health and Maguindanao Provincial Health Office.

Dr. Amirel Usman, BARMM health minister, said the vaccines will be administered to 2,100 health personnel in the region.

The vaccination ceremony will be held on Friday, March 5, at the Integrated Provincial Health Office in Maguindanao.

Usman said this is for the first phase of the BARMM’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

Each health worker will receive two vaccine shots with a four-week interval from the first vaccination.

Usman emphasized that health workers in the region, who work both in public and private hospitals, including frontline workers in the ministries of social services, education, and local government, are the top priorities of the vaccination program.

Next are indigent senior citizens, Bangsamoro constituents, and uniformed personnel.

Usman, however, noted that this is still subject to change depending on prevailing situations.

“We have two types of COVID-19 vaccine – the one which can be stored in +2C to +8C refrigerator and the other can be stored in -70C. The challenge for Pfizer is, BARMM still has no capability to store -70C temperature right now,” he said.

Health workers, who are willing to get vaccinated, are advised to sign waivers. However, they also have the option if they prefer another Covid-19 vaccine such as Pfizer or AstraZeneca.

Usman, nevertheless, stressed that the available vaccine at the moment is the “best vaccine” for everyone, highlighting that the vaccination program is part of the government’s preventive measures against the virus.

DOE orders power generation firms to ensure supply amid COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Robie de Guzman   •   March 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Energy (DOE) on Thursday directed all generation companies and other power stakeholders in the country to ensure reliable and stable electric supply amid the government’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

In an advisory dated March 2, 2021, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi ordered power generation companies, as well as government-owned and -controlled corporations and private sector-operated generation facilities to undertake the following measures:

  • Ensure availability of generating facilities at the maximum dependable capacity
  • Compliance with the Grid Operating and Maintenance Program for 2021
  • Manage the water reservoir to have optimal production of hydroelectric power plants when they are most needed
  • Secure adequate fuel supplies and maintain reasonable fuel inventories
  • Arrange for back-up personnel in power plants and additional maintenance crew to assist in case of emergencies
  • Augment security forces in major power plant installations, as needed
  • Ensure that emergency response protocols and business continuity plans are updated to include utmost prioritization of COVID-19 vaccine cold storage facilities and healthcare facilities in cases of power outages
  • Provide necessary support for COVID-19 vaccine cold storage facilities and healthcare facilities installing their own back-up power supply, as needed
  • Coordinate with concerned local government units regarding the locations/stations of cold storage facilities for COVID-19 vaccines

The DOE said the recently released advisory complements the earlier directive to the Distribution Utilities issued on February 16.

“The DOE is working non-stop to establish an uninterrupted supply of electricity services at the onset of the vaccine rollout by the end of Q1 of 2021. We have been meeting with the members of the energy family to fortify our strategies,” Cusi said.

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