GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 21 July) – The country’s vaccine czar reminded local government officials on Tuesday of the need to have sufficient cold storage facilities, as well as getting reliable cold chain solution partners, as the country further pushes the vaccination campaign against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. made the pitch during his visit here to personally assess the health situation and discuss with local officials for a more efficient rollout of the immunization program.
Meeting with local officials and regional heads of various national government agencies in Region 12, Galvez reminded them that delivery of the Sinovac vaccine is about to end in August, leaving only the highly sensitive vaccines like Pfizer, Moderna and Sputnik V during the fourth quarter.
He urged local officials to gain knowledge about cold chain facilities and distribution. “If you have the cold chain capacity, we can even deliver the vaccine directly to the intended provinces and cities,” he stressed.
Ahead of Galvez’s visit, a local radio station reported about a possible issue in the delivery of Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine due to the absence of an appropriate cold storage facility in the city to stock the vaccines.
But city councilor Franklin Gacal said they already have approved at the City Council a P30-million supplemental fund for such a facility in February. The councilor said they will look into it.
Galvez said cold storage capacity of local government units is among the key factors being considered in vaccine deployment per region. He noted that regions which have well-equipped cold chain systems have received as much as 700,000 doses per shipment.
He also pitched the idea of collaborating with business groups in the region in order to meet the cold storage requirements of the vaccines. “You can also look at developing hospital-based capacity for cold storage similar to Western Mindanao and Northern Mindanao where their vaccine supplies are stored in hospitals,” he added.
“You need to train if needed because we will soon begin distributing them to rural areas,” he said.
Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Sputnik V vaccines are placed in ultra-low-temperature freezers and require storage temperatures of negative 18 to negative 80-degree Celsius.
The vaccine czar said General Santos City should be developed as a major vaccine storage hub due to its strategic location in the region.
“If storage capacity is large, the region can just keep receiving vaccine supply,” he said.
More than 350,000 doses of anti-COVID-19 shots from the national government’s July vaccine stockpile have been allocated for Region 12.
These are composed of 148,700 Johnson & Johnson doses, 45,700 COVAX-donated AstraZeneca shots, and 174,294 Sinovac doses. (Rommel G. Rebollido / MindaNews)