DAVAO CITY – The city will receive initial doses of Pfizer-BionTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines from the national government by late next month, as the area grapples again with record-hitting new daily cases due to the post-holiday surge.
This was announced by Dr. Ashley Lopez, Davao City Health COVID-19 focal person said in his program over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) on Wednesday.
Lopez said local authorities are doing all they can to prepare the logistical support, particularly the storage facilities that can support ultra-cold temperature of -70°C, which is required to maintain the efficacy of vaccines developed by the US-based drug maker.
Asked how many doses will be allocated for Davao City, Lopez said in a separate text message on Thursday that he had no figure yet since this will be decided by the national government.
But he assured that it will be sufficient to cover frontline health workers of the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) who, along with health professionals from private hospitals, are high up on the priority list of the government.
He said the vaccines will not be made available to the public, as the national government will give priority to frontline health workers, indigent senior citizens, remaining senior citizens, remaining indigent population, and uniformed personnel.
“We will prioritize health professionals of the SPMC because that’s the center of our isolation. There are a lot of cases there so we need to protect the health professionals. They will be the ones to first benefit from the vaccines,” he added.
The Food and Drug Administration announced last January 14 that it granted the application for emergency use authorization of Pfizer-BionTech COVID-19 vaccine. Phase 3 clinical trials showed its vaccines have an efficacy of 95%.
Lopez said Davao City was identified as a priority area of the national government for its vaccination program because it is among the areas outside the National Capital Region with high COVID-19 cases.
He said local authorities are looking for available storage facilities in the city that can meet the requirement of Pfizer-BionTech vaccines and those developed by other manufacturers.
The city government earlier signed an agreement with AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals (Philippines), Inc. for the purchase of its vaccines. The company committed to deliver initial doses of AZD1222, the vaccine jointly developed by the British firm with Oxford University, to the city by the third quarter of this year.
“Last weekend, we just had our first coordinators’ meeting at the City Health Office. We did a micro planning in preparation for the possible COVID-19 immunization. We are going to have follow-up meetings,” Lopez said.
He said the local government awaits specific guidelines from the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Department of Health to address the issues concerning the upcoming COVID-19 immunization program.
For the nationwide rollout, Lopez said Dabawenyos will not be forced to receive COVID-19 vaccines but added that those who are willing to get it must sign a consent form.
He said the purpose COVID-19 vaccine is “not entirely to cure the infection.”
He clarified that vaccines could help lessen the severity of complications from the infection.
“It’s not 100% effective but it’s better to weigh the harms versus the benefits. It outweighs harmful effects. There are more benefits in getting COVID-19 vaccines,” he said,
He said the local government hopes to achieve “herd immunity” to put an end to the pandemic.
The city government eyes to vaccinate around 1.2 million people to establish herd immunity.
As of January 20, the Department of Health-Davao reported 158 new cases, bringing the total cases to 15,459, with 2,517 active ones, 12,322 recoveries, and 620 deaths in the region.
Of the total number, Davao City, which reported the highest COVID-19 incidence in Mindanao, tallied 10,597 cases, with 1,465 active ones, 8,641 recoveries, and 491 deaths.
Davao de Oro reported 769 cases, Davao del Norte 2,112, Davao del Sur 1,125, Davao Occidental 168, and Davao Oriental 688. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)