Vaccine rollout gathers pace

The vaccination program against Covid-19 is seen to pick up its pace as vaccines reach more provinces and more doses are flown in, public officials said.

They also cited growing public acceptance of the Sinovac vaccine.

PRECIOUS LIQUID A medical worker draws the Sinovac vaccine from its vial during the ceremonial vaccination activity at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila on March 3, 2021. PHOTO BY MIKE ALQUINTO

On Wednesday, the inoculation of more health workers continued, with one big private hospital joining the vaccine rollout.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said that as of Tuesday night, more than 2,000 Filipinos have received the Sinovac vaccine.

“From 11 hospitals, meron na po tayong 2,793 na na-inoculate as of 19:33 (7:33) kagabi (From 11 hospitals, 2,793 have already been inoculated as of 7:33 p.m. last night),”Galvez said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel on Wednesday.

Of those who got jabs, only 12 individuals experienced “minor” side effects.

Galvez, who also received a Sinovac vaccine on Monday, said he felt pain in his arm immediately after the injection.

“Sa ngayon wala po akong nararamdaman na sakit na (Now I don’t feel pain anymore),” he said.

The government began its vaccination program on Monday, following the arrival of 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines on Sunday.

On Wednesday, the St. Luke’s Medical Center in the cities of Taguig and Quezon also inoculated their medical personnel. The hospital asked for 5,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine from the government.

So far, the vaccine rollout nationwide has been smooth, Galvez said.

The government plans to complete the distribution of the Sinovac vaccine in different provinces this week.

“Ang target namin ngayong linggo ma-dispatch na namin, madistribute na namin lahat ng mga doses sa different regions (Our target is to dispatch, distribute all doses to different regions this week),” Galvez said in a television interview.

He said 202,182 doses were allocated for Luzon; 51,140 for the Visayas; and 94, 540 for Mindanao.

With the expected arrival on March 4 of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Malacañang said the vaccination rollout would not be interrupted by supply problems.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. assured the public that more than 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine from the World Health Organization-led Covax Facility would arrive this month.

“At kaya nga po kampante po ang gobyerno na tuluy-tuloy na po ito at sa lalong mabilis na panahon sana matapos po natin ang mga health workers, 3.4 million po iyan at pagkatapos po sana ay mayroon na tayong makuha para sa mga seniors dahil iyon na po ang ating susunod na target ng ating vaccination (That’s why the government is confident that the vaccination will be continuous and, as soon as possible, we hope to finish vaccinating our 3.4 million health workers. And after them, we hope to get more doses for the senior citizens because they are the next target of our vaccination),” he said.

Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said the government’s priority is to accelerate the deployment of the vaccines to the rest of the country and vaccinate as many medical frontliners as possible.

He explained that prioritizing frontliners aims to preserve the country’s health care system since they are the most vulnerable and most burdened by the pandemic.

Aside from medical workers, the police and military personnel are also included in the priority list.

April or May

According to Galvez, the vaccination of the general population might start in late April or early May.

“Ang projection po namin ang general public po pati ‘yung mga seniors, poor families at tsaka vulnerable communities, we will start general public inoculations more or less late April, early May (Based on our projection, the inoculation of the general public including senior citizens, poor families and vulnerable communities will start more or less late April or early May),” the official said.

Some 1 million doses of Sinovac vaccine, part of the 25 million doses the Philippines ordered, are also expected to be shipped in March, Galvez said.

In the second quarter, at least 5.2 million doses of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines from the Covax Facility are expected to arrive.

The government plans to inoculate at least 50 million individuals by the end of 2021.

Demand increasing

Galvez claimed that the demand for the Sinovac vaccine had increased.

“Nakakatuwa dahil kasi initially nung unang araw walang halos kumuha (This is encouraging because at first only a few were willing to have it),” he said.

Since Monday when some government officials and doctors were inoculated in public, Galvez said he received calls from local government officials who also wanted to have the vaccine.

“Halos araw-araw ang daming tumatawag na congressmen, mayors; gusto nila mabigyan ang kanilang mga hospitals (Almost everyday, congressmen, mayors have been calling, asking that their hospitals be given vaccines),” he said.

Galvez said the reserved Sinovac vaccines, initially 70,000, are now down to 55,000 after the government heeded requests of local governments for vaccine doses.
He appealed to the public not to be “brand conscious,” saying all vaccine brands will be efficacious.

“Dapat hindi po tayo maging tinatawag na ‘conscious’ sa mga brand dahil lahat ng mga vaccine, may kani-kaniya pong efficacy ‘yan (We should not be conscious when it comes to brands because vaccines have their own efficacy rate).”

Galvez told the public that what is important is that the vaccines can prevent severe cases of Covid-19.

Protection

St. Luke’s Medical Center (SMLC)President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Arturo de la Peña had himself inoculated with the Sinovac vaccine on Wednesday not just to protect himself but those around him.

De la Peña contracted Covid-19 a few weeks after a coronary bypass surgery.

“Ayoko nang maranasan pa ulit yun, at ayaw ko na ring maranasan ng mga empleyado ko ‘yun, (I don’t want to experience it again, and I don’t want my employees to experience it as well),” the surgeon told The Manila Times while waiting for his jab.

De la Peña said he felt obligated to protect the health of his employees; that’s why he took the first available vaccine that was delivered in the country.

“Pare-pareho lang namang effective ‘yun … maski mababa, basta maprotektahan at maproteksyunan (They are all effective, even if its [efficacy] low. As long as I get protected,) that is the most important to me,” he added.

De la Peña was one of the 50 medical frontliners who were inoculated in SLMC’s Bonifacio Global City branch.

SLMC medical director Dr. Benjamin Campomanes and other senior staff were also given the vaccine, as well as 50 other frontliners for the ceremonial vaccination ceremony.
Another 50 personnel were vaccinated in its Quezon City hospital.

The government gave 5,000 doses to SLMC. For the initial batch, the hospital aims to inoculate 400 health workers in both sites.

Vaccination Czar and National Task Force Against Covid-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said he was surprised at the request of the hospital to have at least 5,000 doses of the vaccine.

Galvez said the vaccination of frontliners in hospitals across the country might help boost the public’s confidence in the vaccines.

WITH RED MENDOZA

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