KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 07 March) – Frontline health workers in Region 12 (Soccsksargen) will receive on Monday their first dose of CoronaVac, the vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical Sinovac Biotech against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), officials of the Department of Health – Region 12 (DOH-12) said.
Dr. Edvir Jane Montañer, DOH-12 immunization program manager, said health workers from 23 COVID-19 referral hospitals across the region will be the first to be inoculated.
On Sunday, however, health workers in Sarangani Province received their first dose of the vaccine a day ahead of a scheduled simultaneous inoculation in Region 12. (see other story)
On Friday, about 18,000 initial doses of CoronaVac for the region arrived from Manila via the Awang Airport in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.
The vaccines were stored at the cold storage facility of DOH-12 in Cotabato City, and were distributed on Saturday to Region 12’s four provinces (North Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato and Sultan Kuadarat) and four cities (Kidapawan, General Santos, Koronadal and Tacurong).
Montañer appealed to the media and the general public to give correct information about Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine, which she stressed is “one of the remedies to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA granted emergency use authorization for the Sinovac-made vaccine but did not recommend it for frontline health care workers at high risk of exposure and to senior citizens.
FDA chief Eric Domingo said late-stage trial data of the CoronaVac showed it had a lower efficacy rate when used for health care workers exposed to the coronavirus compared with “clinically healthy” people between the ages of 18 and 59.
“According to our experts, (CoronaVac) vaccine is not the best vaccine for them,” Domingo told a press briefing on February 22, noting that CoronaVac was only 50.4 percent effective in the high-risk group such as medical frontliners, and therefore, “it is not recommended for use in this group.”
On February 26, however, Dr. Maria Consocia Quizon of the Health department’s interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITG) announced in a virtual press conference that CoronaVac “is safe for use for healthcare workers. We need to protect them.” She added that since CoronaVac is available, “kailangan nating gamitin” (we should use it).
Vaccination using CoronaVac kicked off on March 1 with health care workers getting the jabs. This prompted the Alliance of Health Workers to question what they said were government’s inconsistent policies.
Other pharmaceutical companies have developed their vaccines against COVID-19, including Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax in the United States, Aztrazeneca in England and Sinopharm in China.
President Duterte on March 4 welcomed the first shipment of nearly 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and COVAX Facility.
“Today, we declare the ‘near-end’ of our fight against the COVID-19 disease. We are fighting it for over a year now for our right to live and exist,” Montañer told reporters on Friday when the vaccines arrived.
Nearly 9,000 health workers from the 23 COVID-19 referral hospitals in Region 12 are eligible to receive the CoronaVac vaccines, she noted.
Arjohn Gangoso, DOH-12 health education and promotion officer, said the CoronaVac vaccines will be administered in two doses four weeks apart from each other.
At least two hospitals were given the vaccines in Cotabato City , six in GenSan, five in South Cotabato, four in North Cotabato, two in Sarangani and four in Sultan Kudarat, he added.
Dr. Dyan Zubelle Parayao, DOH-12 epidemiology and surveillance unit head, urged her fellow health workers to get vaccinated.
She admitted that Coronavac vaccines might cause side effects but “severe reactions are rare..” She said the vaccines caused “mild reactions only.”
“There will always be side effects whatever the vaccine is,” she added.
According to her, the vaccines were allocated as follows: 2,138 for Cotabato City, 3,138 for General Santos City (GenSan), 1,838 for South Cotabato, 441 for North Cotabato, 1,076 for Sultan Kudarat and 336 for Sarangani.
Cotabato City, which voted for inclusion in the Bangsamoro Autononomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in January 2019, was formally made part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in mid-December 2020. Its record of COVID-19 cases, previously under Region 12, has been transferred to the BARMM’s Ministry of Heatlh. It is not clear why Cotabato City’s vaccines are still under Region 12.
As of Saturday evening, Soccsksargen recorded at least 5,697 COVID-19 cases, of which 329 are active, 5,167 have recovered and 205 have died, DOH-12 data showed.
There were 24 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 19 recoveries for the day, it added. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)