SP NorthCot to probe spoilage of 348 doses of vaccines vs COVID-19

\DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 May) — The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of  North Cotabato will conduct an inquiry into the spoilage of 348 doses of the Sinovac-manufactured vaccines intended for senior citizens in  Makilala, North Cotabato.

In a statement released to the media Friday night, Vice Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza said the legislative inquiry in aid of legislation aims to dig deeper into  the spoilage of the vaccines “considering the sensitivity of the issue at hand and the scarcity of the vaccine supply.”

The probe also aims to propose measures to improve the guidelines on the proper handling of vaccines to prevent a repeat of the incident and avoid yet another spoilage.

Quoting the incident report prepared by the Municipal Health Office, Lito Cañedo, spokesperson of the Municipal Inter-Agency Task Force (MIATF) said the power interruption and failure to switch back the connection of the Ice Lined Refrigerator (ILR) from the generator set to the power outlet of the cold chain room may have damaged the vaccines.

The Ice Lined Refrigerator (ILR) of the Municipal Health Office of Makilala inside the cold chain storage facility. (Photo Courtesy of MHO Makilala)

Cañedo added that power outage hit the town on May 7 from 12:38 p.m. to 2:08 p.m. but when the power was restored, the personnel on duty failed to switch back the ILR from the back-up generator to the electric outlet of the storage room at the local police station.

The incident report noted that it was only on Monday, May 10, the scheduled vaccination rollout for senior citizens,  when it was discovered that the ILR was still connected to the power generator set.

When they turned on the ILR on Monday, the temperature of the vaccines was 11.3 degrees Celsius.

The Chinese-made vaccines’ required temperature is two to eight degrees Celsius.

ILR stored at police station

According to the incident report, the ILR was initially stored at the Bids and Awards Committee office beside the Municipal Engineering Office because the Rural Health Unit building was damaged by the series of strong earthquakes in 2019.

“The vaccines should be manned by police personnel 24/7. But there was a time when during the inspection, there was no police manning the storage facility” so the MHO and local government officials requested that the ILR be moved inside the police station, Cañedo said

In a text message, Makilala MHO Dr. Georgina Sorilla said their new RHU building is still under construction and may be finished by June.

Sorilla admitted that they are still sharing a temporary office at the back of the municipal hall.

She recalled that even before the pandemic, when they vaccinate,  they would share space with other offices.

Dr. Eva Rabaya, chief of the Integrated Provincial Health Office, refuted the claim of provincial IATF spokesperson and 2nd district board member Dr. Philbert Malaluan that the vaccines were stored in an ordinary refrigerator.

“It’s not true, we have ILRs. It was just an unfortunate incident that somebody forgot to switch back to the regular electrical supply after the brownout,” Rabaya explained.

Rabaya said over the phone that the Department of Health (DOH) provided the MHO with ILR long before the pandemic.

Rabaya disclosed that in future shipments of vaccine for Makilala, these will be stored at the Amas Provincial Hospital and transported directly from the provincial hospital to the vaccination site in Makilala.

The provincial hospital is about 21 kilometers away from Makilala town hall.

Isolated incident

On Friday, Rabaya said they were  still waiting for official confirmation from the DOH Regional Office-12 on the status of the Sinovac vaccines.

She explained that based on their experience with ordinary vaccines,  they are considered spoiled once it goes beyond the required temperature, even if  this happened within an hour.

“Dili na namo ginagamit (We do not use anymore). So the same with the Sinovac, considered na pud na damaged,” she said.

The Ice Lined Refrigerator (ILR) of the Municipal Health Office of Makilala/ (Photo Courtesy of MHO Makilala)

Rabaya clarified that the IPHO and the MHOs have prepared for contingencies before the vaccine rollout during this pandemic.

What happened in Makilala, she said, was just an isolated incident.

Cañedo noted that  vaccination rollout has been smooth since March.

“This incident was just so unfortunate. But all the rest of our vaccination rollout went well,” he said.

According to Cañedo, the vaccination rollout will still continue and they will just wait for another batch of vaccines to replace the doses intended for the senior citizens.  (MindaNews)