PH to get COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX in Q1 2021 – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   January 21, 2021   •   226

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) announced that the Philippines has received confirmation of its participation in the COVID-19 vaccine financing instrument – COVAX facility – Advance Market Commitment.

The COVAX Facility, an initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO), is a global procurement mechanism which invests in a broad portfolio of promising vaccine candidates to support their research, development, and manufacturing.

This facility was setup to ensure fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

“With the country’s participation in the COVAX Facility, the country is set to receive vaccines in the first quarter of this year,” the DOH said in a statement on Wednesday.

As part of the preparations for the COVID-19 vaccine deployment, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. on Wednesday visited three cold storage facilities that can potentially be used in the first wave of COVID-19 vaccine roll-out.

The cold chain facilities visited were the First Pioneer Distribution Center of UNILAB located in Biñan City, Laguna, the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City, and the Zuellig Pharma Corporation in Parañaque City.

“The inspection was carried out to ensure that the cold chain facilities will meet the storage requirement of vaccines prior to its distribution to identified vaccination sites,” the DOH said.

UNILAB’s cold storage facility has a temperature range of +2 to +8 °C and can store a maximum of five million doses of vaccines.

Meanwhile, Zuellig Pharma reported that its facilities can accommodate pharmaceutical products with temperature requirements ranging between -80°C to +25 °C. Its cold rooms with temperature ranging from +2 to +8 °C can store up to 629 million doses in various warehouses, its -15 to -25 °C walk-in freezers can hold up to 40 million doses, and its 14 ultra-cold freezers with -80 to -70 °C temperature range has the capacity to store up to 6.5 million doses.

“The vaccine cluster, on behalf of the government, is grateful to UNILAB and Zuellig Pharma for partnering with the government in further strengthening the country’s capacity to curb the pandemic. We also express our commitment to ensure continued support for RITM in its preparations to receive vaccines,” Galvez said.

RITM Director Dr. Celia Carlos said that RITM currently has four cold rooms with a +2 to +8 °C temperature range, one -20 °C walk-in freezer, and two borrowed ultra-low temperature freezers with a -70 to -80 °C temperature range. Presently, RITM commits its ultra-low temperature storage facility.

With this, the DOH said that Galvez has recommended the constitution of another team at the RITM exclusively handling the COVID-19 vaccine deployment, adding that a separate team for EPI (Expanded Program of Immunization) vaccines is ideal for an uninterrupted focus and roll-out of both immunization programs.

Duque, on the other hand, noted that aside from cold chain facilities, the vaccine cluster is also in talks with third-party logistics providers to ensure efficiency of the entire supply chain management of COVID-19 vaccines, from the receipt of vaccines from the COVAX Facility to its deployment.

“All of these preparations that we are undertaking are aimed at ensuring that the country is ready to receive, store, and mobilize the COVID-19 vaccines that will come from the COVAX Facility,” Duque said.

Duterte to wait for FDA approval before using Sinopharm vax – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   March 2, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will wait for China-state-owned Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine to secure an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before receiving a dose, his spokesperson said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the announcement after the FDA confirmed that it has received Sinopharm’s application for an EUA that was filed on Monday afternoon.

“Mag-aantay po si president ng EUA dahil nabalita ko nga kahapon, mayroon na pong nag-apply ng EUA for the Sinopharm,” Roque said in a press briefing.

Securing an EUA from the FDA is part of the process for a vaccine to be legally used in the country.

The FDA earlier approved a compassionate use license for 10,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines for the members of the Presidential Security Group.

The agency, however, clarified that the issuance of such a permit is not tantamount to a stamp of approval.

Duterte earlier expressed a preference for Sinopharm developed COVID-19 vaccines. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Gatchalian volunteers to be inoculated with Sinovac vaccines

Robie de Guzman   •   March 2, 2021

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday said he has volunteered to receive the COVID-19 vaccine shot developed by Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech in a bid to address vaccine hesitancy.

In a statement, Gatchalian said he is willing to be inoculated with Sinovac’s CoronaVac if allowed under the government’s prioritization framework for the nationwide immunization campaign.

“Alam ko may prioritization tayo ngayon. Kung hindi naman lalabag dito, I would volunteer to be vaccinated by Sinovac. This is to show to the public our support to the vaccination program,” Gatchalian said.

The senator said he sent word to vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. over the weekend of his willingness to participate in the national vaccination program.

This is also to disprove the notion that some politicians want to be vaccinated with the brand of their choice and with an efficacy rate higher than CoronaVac, he added.

“What’s more important to me is the seal of approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If it’s approved by the FDA, which went through tedious analysis prior to the grant of authorization for emergency use, I’m okay with it,” he said.

“I’m okay with any brand of anti-COVID-19 vaccine. I’m not brand conscious. I put my trust in the FDA,” he added.

The FDA earlier said that Sinovac’s CoronaVac is not recommended for healthcare workers frequently exposed to COVID-19 patients due to its low efficacy rate of 50.4%, based on trials conducted in Brazil.

The FDA, however, clarified that health workers can still choose to receive the vaccine as it only made a recommendation on which groups it is not suited for.

The Philippine government on Monday rolled out its immunization program after COVID-19 vaccines donated by China arrived in the Philippines on Sunday.

The Department of Health said that more than 700 frontline workers, and government officials received the vaccine on the first day of immunization.

Prior to Monday’s immunization drive, a survey conducted from January 26 to February 1, 2021 by the OCTA Research Group showed that only 19% of Filipinos are willing to have themselves vaccinated while 46% would not want to be inoculated and 35% are still undecided.

Gatchalian, however, expressed optimism that the figures will change in the coming days.

“Maraming hesitant dahil bago itong vaccine. Kaya importante dito ang confidence building na dapat pangunahan ng mga opisyal ng gobyerno, well-known personalities, at kahit mga elected officials kagaya ng ginawa ni Indonesian President Joko Widodo at Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam,” he said.

12,000 doses of CoronaVac arrive in Davao City; vaccination rollout to start on Friday

Maris Federez   •   March 2, 2021

DAVAO CITY, Philippines Aboard the flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL), 12,000 doses (placed in 20 boxes) of Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac vaccines arrived at the Davao International Airport on Tuesday, March 2, at 6:45 in the morning.

The 12,000 doses of CoronaVac are allocated for the vaccination of more than 8,000 frontliners, most of whom are healthcare workers (HCW).

However, the vaccines were brought to the Department of Health (DOH) Regional office, instead of the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) as originally planned.

The DOH said this is because Sinovac vaccines are not as temperature-sensitive as that of Pfizer vaccines which the SPMC storage facility was designed and constructed for.

CoronaVac can be stored in a storage facility with a +2 to +8˚Celsius temperature, as compared to that of Pfizer vaccines which require a -70˚Celsius temperature.

The DOH said they did not encounter any problems in the transportation of the vaccines from the airport to the DOH office.

The health department also reported that the vaccination rollout among frontliners will begin on Friday, with a target of 150 HWCs.

Based on the DOH priority list, 3,000 HCWs from the SPMC will be inoculated first, to be followed by those from private hospitals.

SPMC OIC Dr. Ricardo Audan, Davao City COVID-19 focal person Dr. Ashley Lopez, and DOH Regional Director Annabelle Yumang volunteered to receive the vaccines first to set an example to their colleagues. —/mbmf (with details from Davao Correspondent, Marisol Montaño)

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