Editorial: Weak links in the rollout

·2 min read

The progress report has been most regressive. The Department of Health (DOH) 7 is yet to reconcile data with ground figures after health facilities in the region have yet to submit their report on the actual number of Covid-19 vaccine jabs it had already administered.

“I was trying to dig into the discrepancy and how we should be able to address this. One is the reporting. We really encourage our facilities, our vaccination partners, to please submit daily your report on the number of individuals you have vaccinated,” said DOH 7 spoksperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche on March 24, supposedly the deadline set to use up the 29,520 doses of AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccines allocated for Central Visayas. The initial list appears that the rollout had inoculated only 46 percent or 13,781 doses of the target. The percentage doesn’t seem to show it is only a problem of delayed reporting. It may be a problem of inefficiency.

Loreche said the DOH 7 might extend the deadline, although the final say should come from the national office. The unused AZ vaccines may be distributed to other subgroups in Priority A, which includes senior citizens and other frontliners not directly in the health sector. We understand there is supposed to be a quick substitution list, although we wonder if there is some kind of pre-registration for the second wave of qualifiers.

The earlier instruction was that the DOH would recall any excess inventory after the March 24 deadline and redistribute them in areas where the number of cases had surged. In which case, the excess AZ vaccines are likely to be shipped back to the National Capital Region, whose health facilities’ critical care are up to the neck, people are dying mid-queue.

If Central Visayas’s health facilities underperform in the vaccine rollout, the AZ round will be such a missed opportunity. The region was allocated a total of 110,760 doses from the 1.125 million doses of Sinovac and AZ vaccines. Thirty-thousand of those are AZ vaccines and 80,760 doses were from Sinovac.

But here’s the rub. The second dose of the AZ vaccine is to be given on the 12th week after the first dose, but since the vaccines expire in nine weeks, or on May 31, 2021, all of the current batch has to be administered as first doses. We have to wait for the next AZ vaccines to fly in, hopefully in time for the due second dose.

Efficient is probably the last word to describe the manner we have delivered the vaccine in our part of the world. At this point, it may help to identify the weak links in the program and address them while another bulk is set to arrive, as the government promised, in May.