BARMM still undecided on COVID-19 vaccine brand

Soldiers unload personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies from a Philippine Airforce C-130 plane that landed at the Awang Airport in Maguindanao on March 24. The supplies are intended for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in its fight against COVID-19. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 21 January) — The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has allocated 500 million pesos for its COVID-19 vaccination program, but was yet to decide on what brand to use, the region’s health minister said.

Dr. Ameril Usman, officer-in-charge of the Health Ministry of BARMM, said they have not entered yet into an agreement with any pharmaceutical company that will supply the vaccine.

“We have allotted 500 million pesos for the purchase of the vaccine. I will introduce soon the vaccination program , so probably it will give us some time, at least two months,” Usman said.

“We are still in the process of knowing kung ano ang pwede dito atin sa (what will work for us in) BARMM  that suits the environment or situation,” he said.

He added they are also considering the issue of storage capacity.

Vaccines for COVID-19 require extremely low temperatures to preserve their efficacy.

Usman cited that the vaccine made by Pfizer, for example, needs to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius.

“We need this preparedness assessment so that we will know if the people we target are willing to be vaccinated, and we don’t have enough manpower yet now,” he added.

A trainers’ training for the vaccinations and vaccine management team as part of the bigger task they will be engaged in the next months was ongoing.

Usman said they need into a tripartite agreement with the national government, the local government units and the pharmaceutical firms before a purchase may be done.

Meanwhile, cold chain vehicles, sea and land ambulances, biological safety refrigerators and solar generators were handed to BARMM by the British and German governments through the efforts of International Organization for Migration under its “Prepare, Prevent and Protect” approach in mitigating the impacts of the pandemic among vulnerable communities in Mindanao.

“I am convinced that the ambulances and solar generators and other equipment will contribute to the urgent delivery of services and necessary assistance to those in need in this current pandemic and beyond,” according to German ambassador to the Philippines Anke Reiffenstuel.

“I particularly like to commend Bangsamoro Transition Authority leaders for their hard work and dedication seeking to protect their citizens from this crisis,” Alastair Totty, the deputy head of mission of the British embassy, said in a message via Zoom.

Kristin Dadey, chief of mission of IOM-Philippines said they have long dreamed to give this kind of assistance to the Bangsamoro people.

“So here we are two years later, moving mountains to try to get you the very critical health care equipment that you asked just after two years ago,” she said. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)