More VSMMC healthcare workers say yes to Sinovac

Wenilyn Sabalo
·7 min read

THOUGH hesitant at first, the number of healthcare workers (HCWs) at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City who consented to be inoculated with Sinovac’s CoronaVac Covid-19 vaccine has increased as of Wednesday, March 3, 2021.

VSMMC chief Dr. Gerardo Aquino Jr. said 1,246 HCWs of the hospital have already agreed to be vaccinated.

Aquino, 56, was the first to get the Sinovac vaccine during a ceremony for the first vaccine rollout in the Visayas and Mindanao held inside the new Center for Behavioral Sciences building of the VSMMC at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 4.

After Aquino, Dr. Juanito Tiu of St. Anthony Mother and Child Hospital, Dr. Pythagoras Zerna of Eversley Childs Sanitarium and General Hospital, Ret. Maj. Gen. Melquiades Feliciano of the Inter-Agency Task Force Central Visayas, and Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, Department of Health (DOH) 7 spokesperson and chief pathologist, also received Sinovac’s vaccine.

Cebu City Vice Mayor Michael Rama, Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan and Chinese Consulate-General Jia Li were present to witness the inoculations.

“There was just a little pain on the injection, just like the ordinary vaccination. Other than that, they kept on monitoring my vital signs and BP (blood pressure) and it was okay,” Aquino said during the post- vaccination briefing.

Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo of the Field Implementation and Coordination Team administered the vaccine on Aquino.

For her part, Loreche said now that they have “shown the way,” they expected fellow healthcare workers, frontliners and Cebuanos to see that the Sinovac vaccine is really safe.

“We believe that we have to have the vaccine as it is now because this the best vaccine that we have at this moment,” Loreche said.

Loreche dedicated her voluntary vaccination with the Sinovac vaccine to the medical frontliners who have lost their lives in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I would always remember our fallen colleagues as they fought Covid with us,” she said.

Around 50 to 70 VSMMC healthcare workers were scheduled to be vaccinated along with the hospital’s officials on March 4.

Thereafter, the DOH 7 targets about 500 healthcare workers a day for vaccination in the coming days.

Aquino said the inoculation of nurses and doctors at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila helped boost the confidence of the HCWs in VSMMC to have themselves vaccinated with the same Sinovac vaccine.

The VSMMC received 7,200 doses of CoronaVac on Tuesday, March 2, the first batch of vaccines to reach the Visayas.

Aquino said these will be enough to cover the second or last dose of the vaccine for the complete vaccination of priority medical frontliners.

On the first day of the vaccine rollout on Thursday, 15 vaccinators were deployed by the VSMMC.

Aquino said based on the guidelines, HCWs have the option to wait for their preferred vaccine brand without losing their priority status.

But he said he hoped more VSMMC HCWs would trust and agree to be given CoronaVac in the coming days.

Aquino said if some VSMMC health workers decline vaccination, the unused Sinovac vaccines intended for them will be forwarded to other government hospitals in the region.

“I told the rest of the team of the hospital, maybe in the next third or fourth day, they can send it to whoever is on the list for vaccination,” Aquino said in a mix of Tagalog and English.

Order of priority

Those prioritized in the vaccinations are medical workers in hospitals catering to Covid-19 cases, followed by health workers in other hospitals and government-owned community-based primary care facilities.

Next in line are those working in private healthcare facilities and institutions.

As of March 2, 20 local government units (LGUs) in Central Visayas including the tri-cities of Cebu, Lapu Lapu and Mandaue, have created their Vaccination Operations Center (VOC) following a directive issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The VOCs are tasked to prepare the masterlist of priority eligible vaccinees, existing human resources and the LGU’s needed personnel in the vaccination program.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III who was expected to join the first vaccinations in Cebu on Thursday was unable to attend the ceremony due to the arrival of 487,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the country Thursday night.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Central Visayas will have an allocation of the AstraZeneca vaccine; however, the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group will still have to deliberate on the exact number of doses to be allocated to the priority sectors.

Postponed vaccinations

DOH 7 medical program coordinator Van Phillip Baton in an earlier presentation of the region’s Covid-19 vaccination plan during the first Regional Development Council 7 full council meeting for 2021, said there will be qualified individuals whose vaccination will be deferred depending on the assessment of a medical doctor.

He said those manifesting Covid-19 symptoms on the day of their vaccination will have to be rescheduled until they are fully recovered.

The symptoms include fever, chills, headache, cough, colds, sore throat, fatigue, weakness, loss of smell or taste, diarrhea, shortness of breath, and difficulty in breathing.

Meanwhile, those with a history of exposure to a confirmed or suspected Covid-19 case in the past two weeks will also have to be deferred until after completion of the mandatory quarantine period.

Those previously treated for Covid-19 in the past 90 days will also be rescheduled after 90 days, as well as those who received convalescent plasma or antibodies.

HCWs who are pregnant in their first trimester will be vaccinated only after the first trimester, while those who received any other vaccines in the last two weeks will be rescheduled after completion of the two-week interval.

Those inoculated with the Covid vaccine will be assessed 25 to 35 minutes after the vaccination for possible adverse effects.

Available vaccines

Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella is willing to be vaccinated should the vaccine be made available to officials.

“Kung ako la’y mosunod, magpabakuna ko oy (If I had a choice, I would want to be vaccinated),” Labella told reporters.

Labella said he will also not mind if he will be inoculated with the Sinovac vaccine, as this has been proven effective in other countries.

The Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) Assistant Secretary Jonji Gonzales said 8,400 doses of Sinovac will be delivered to Bohol while 1,200 doses will be sent to Negros Oriental on Friday, March 5.

Gonzales said the doses will be delivered to the Gov. Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital in Tagbilaran City, Bohol and the Silliman University Medical Center Foundation Inc. in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental.

In the National Capital Region (NCR), at least 9,000 received the Sinovac vaccine from March 1 to 3, 2021, data from the National VOC showed.

A total of 1,184 people were vaccinated at the Philippine General Hospital, 221 at the Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital, 148 at the Lung Center of the Philippines, 82 at the Quezon City General Hospital, 300 at the Pasay City Health office, 86 at the Ospital ng Muntinlupa and 185 at the National Children’s Hospital.

A total of 264 healthcare workers were inoculated in three private hospitals: The Medical City (4), St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) in Quezon City (80) and SLMC in Bonifacio Global City (180).

At the Philippine National Police (PNP) General Hospital, 810 personnel were vaccinated as of Wednesday, according to PNP Deputy Chief for Administration Guillermo Eleazar.

The government started implementation of the vaccination program following the arrival of China’s donation of 600,000 doses of CoronaVac, the Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by Sinovac Biotech.

Of the number, 100,000 doses were donated by China to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. (JJL, PAC TPM / SunStar Philippines)