WHO hopes to have vaccine for COVID-19 ready in 18 months

Marje Pelayo   •   February 12, 2020   •   1852

GENEVA, Switzerland — The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Tuesday (February 11) that it takes time to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus now named COVID-19.

However, the international health body hopes to have an effective vaccine within 18 months.

 “The development of vaccines and therapeutics is one important part of the research agenda. But it’s not only one part. They will take time to develop — but in the meantime, we are not defenseless,” said WHO Chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a press conference at the agency’s headquarters.

 “The first vaccine could be ready in 18 months, so we have to do everything today using the available weapons to fight this virus, while preparing for the long-term,” he added.

He noted, however, that even though WHO already named the new virus as COVID-19, there are still many unknown factors that are preventing scientists from finding an exact cure.

“It’s hard to believe that just two months ago, this virus – which has come to captivate the attention of media, financial markets and political leaders – was completely unknown to us,” Tedros said.

“To defeat this outbreak, we need answers to all those questions and more,” he added.

READ: New virus named ‘COVID-19’ to avoid public stigma — WHO

During briefing, the official labeled the disease as “public enemy number one” that poses a global threat, despite most of the cases being confined in mainland China.

“With 99 percent of cases in China, this remains very much an emergency for that country, but one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world,” the official noted.

So far, Dr. Tedros said, WHO is working with countries to strengthen laboratory capacity around the world, ensuring enough supplies of testing kits and protective equipment for health workers and training them to help prevent further spread of COVID-19.

What’s important for now, he added, is for every individual to become part of the preventive strategy.

At least, he explained, individuals should be sensitive not only of his or her own health but also of the people around.

“And we’re keeping the public informed about what everyone can do to protect their own health and that of others,” he said.

“That’s why reaching out to the public directly and telling them the precautions they should take,” he added.

Dr. Tedros reiterated the basic preventive measures that people should religiously practice while there remains no cure for the coronavirus disease.

“Clean your hands regularly, either with alcohol-based rub or soap and water. Keep your distance from someone who is coughing or sneezing. And when you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow,” he concluded.

Cold chain group still awaits gov’t order on unified plan for COVID-19 vaccine storage

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Cold Chain Association of the Philippines (CCAP) said they are still awaiting direction from the national government on the unified plan for storing COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

CCAP president Anthony Dizon said they are still unsure if the government will seek out their services in storing vaccines. Dizon said they can provide 80 cold storage facilities to various areas in the countries.

“We are confronted with a national emergency for we have to have a plan that will be implementable nationwide. For planning purposes , it would be better if we sit down together,” he said.

Dizon added that local government units (LGUs) have been coordinating with several members of the Cold Chain Association of the Philippines for their own vaccine storage. However, a unified plan for all CCAP members will be more beneficial once vaccine distribution begins.

Preparations for the storage would include the number of vaccines that will be stored and how long the vaccines will be stored.

“We have received information that different LGUs have approached some of our members in certain localities and I am elated that certain LGUs have taken initiatives to do that but we are still awaiting the program direction from the national implementing agency,” he said.

Currently, several storage facilities are being used for meat and dairy products. Meanwhile, two cold storage facilities owned by Koldstor Centre of the Philippines in Cavite can already be used for vaccine storage.

For Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines however, Dizon noted only two cold storage facilities can be available for use. Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines would need a temperature requirement of -70 degrees Celsius. AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

Meralco reminds deadline for outstanding bills until Jan. 31

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) has reminded its customers that the deadline for paying outstanding bills is on January 31.

Meralco Spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga said the electric company already provided sufficient time since its disconnection policy was temporarily suspended to help customers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Zaldarriaga said customers can still appeal for an extension through Meralco’s business centers.

He added that they are mulling over the recommended extension of the installment scheme in paying power bills.

We’ve already given iyong ample time. One year na ang—almost one year na magmula noong we stopped disconnecting since March and although, pinag-aaralan pa rin naman natin and on a case-to-case basis ay humahanap tayo ng paraan para tulungan iyong iba pang customers (We’ve already given ample time. Almost one year since we stopped disconnecting since March. Although we are still looking into ways to assist other customers on a case-to-case basis), he said.

Zaldarriaga also reiterated the importance of paying on time in order for the electric company to continue its operation and provide service to its customers. AAC (with reports from Asher Cadapan Jr)

Senators seek third hearing on government’s COVID-19 vaccine plan

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Several Senators seek a third hearing to further discuss the national government’s COVID-19 vaccine plan.

The Senate Committee of the Whole may call for another public hearing on the government’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Senator Franklin Drilon, in a statement, said the two-day inquiry left more questions than answers.

“There are still a number of issues hanging. These too many unanswered questions raise grave concerns, for the survival of the country largely depends on our ability to implement a successful vaccination program against the COVID-19 virus,” he said.

Drilon noted that the pricing, the sourcing of the vaccines, the delivery schedules, and the logistical support plan are several of the urgent questions needed to be answered.

“We did not get any definite answers to these serious questions. I believe another round of hearing is in order. I support the call of Sen. Panfilo Lacson for more hearings,” he added. –AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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