DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 February) – The initial doses of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines for Davao City are expected to arrive on February 12, City Health Office acting head Dr. Ashley Lopez said.
Lopez said during his program over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) that the vaccines have already been set aside for frontline health workers of the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), the primary institution in the city that caters to COVID-19 patients.
Out of 5,000 employees of the SPMC, Lopez said around 3,200 health workers have consented to be vaccinated.
He said the local government could not ascertain the brand of the vaccines and the number of doses that would arrive on Friday.
But he mentioned last January 20 that the city would receive an allocation from the national government for the two-dose Pfizer-BionTech vaccines.
He added the level of preparation which the local government did ahead of the expected arrival of the vaccines was one intended to meet the -70 degrees Celsius temperature requirement of Pfizer-BionTech.
Local health authorities held a simulation exercise on the handling of the vaccines from the Davao International Airport to the ultra-cold storage facility of the SPMC on Wednesday, he said.
Lopez, however, said authorities raised concern about using the SPMC facility for storage since it has been used to store laboratory specimens that may contaminate the vaccines.
This prompted Mayor Sara Duterte to allow the use of a cold storage facility of the Los Amigos Molecular Laboratory, which can support a temperature of as low as -80 degrees Celcius, he added.
“(SPMC) is not fit for storage for these vaccines. It’s too risky. We don’t want to take a risk because our supply is scarce. We will incur big losses if we are a going to waste them,” Lopez said.
He said storing them at the Los Amigos is still feasible despite its distance from the SPMC, where the vaccination will take place, because the vaccines must be allowed a thawing period of at least two hours before they can be administered on individuals.
He added the SPMC has already acquired an ultra-cold freezer that will be delivered on February 19.
Lopez said the country’s Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization to Pfizer-BionTech of the US, AstraZeneca of UK and Sinovac of China.
He said the local government’s health centers have freezers that can support a temperature requirement of between +2 and +8 degrees Celsius of AstraZeneca and Sinovac.
As of February 10, the Department of Health-Davao reported 180 new virus infections, bringing the total cases to 18,555, with 2,559 active ones, 15,235 recoveries, and 761 deaths in the region.
Of the total, Davao City, which reported the highest COVID-19 incidence in Mindanao, tallied 12,248 cases, with 1,310 active ones, 10,351 recoveries, and 587 deaths.
Davao de Oro reported 1,025 cases, Davao del Norte 2,671, Davao del Sur 1,283, Davao Occidental 211, and Davao Oriental 1,117. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)