CEBU Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said she will prioritize the immediate needs of her constituents, instead of making a move to allocate funds for the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines.
Several local government units (LGU) in the country have set aside funds, while others have secured contracts with the vaccine manufacturers.
“For me, it’s premature. It’s not a race,” Garcia told reporters on Thursday, Jan. 14.
The governor further said even if the Capitol would set aside a budget for the vaccine purchase, it would not get the supplies right away because the purchase still has to undergo several processes set by the National Government.
“If I tell you I will allocate P1 billion for the purchase of the vaccine, that will just make good headlines. But how to proceed with it? I will be subjected to existing national government guidelines, and just this point: the National Government has appropriated so much and targeted 70 percent of the population,” Garcia said.
The Philippine Government has signed an agreement with Chinese firm Sinovac for 25 million doses of the latter’s vaccine CoronaVac.
Recent reports stated that a group of Brazilian scientists reported CoronaVac’s efficacy to be just over 50 percent, way lower than the 78 percent level of efficacy announced last week.
The National Government also signed agreements for 30 million doses of the American firm Novavax’s vaccine and 15 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through tripartite deals with LGUs and private firms.
But Garcia will focus first on improving the Capitol’s services in towns amid the pandemic.
“At this point, I’d rather focus our funds on what our people really need right now to help them pick up the pieces of their lives and livelihood, to improve our infrastructure,” she said.
The governor said the Provincial Government will again distribute vitamins to the barangay workers and frontliners to strengthen their immunity.
Independent cities’ move
The independent cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu have moved for the vaccination of a targeted portion of their population.
The Mandaue City Government has reserved P200 million to complement the vaccines that will be allocated to the city by the national government.
Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes’ executive secretary John Eddu Ibañez said the funds will be taken from other sources.
Ibañez said if the vaccines provided by the National Government won’t be enough, the City Government will use the P200 million reserve funds to purchase additional doses.
Mandaue City, according to the 2015 census, has a population of 362,654. However, Ibañez said the city has around 450,000 residents, and he said 20 percent of the population will be prioritized in the vaccination program.
The Mandaue City Hall has a medicine storage facility, and it could be used to store the Covid-19 vaccine, according to Ibañez.
The vaccine for the city, he said, may arrive in the second or third quarter of this year.
The Lapu-Lapu City Government, on the other hand, is considering the Covid-19 vaccines manufactured by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Sinopharm and two other firms for its vaccination program.
City Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan said there is no reason to rush the vaccine purchase, saying the City has to choose the affordable and effective one.
City Epidemiological Surveillance Officer Grace Mary Carungay said 60 to 70 percent of the city population will be vaccinated. The 2015 census states the city has 408,112 residents.
Chan has tasked the City Health Office to prepare a vaccination plan.
The cities of Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue will prioritize people 60 years old and above and frontliners. Mandaue City’s other priorities in the vaccination program are the children and teachers, while Lapu-Lapu City will include indigents, public utility vehicle drivers and vendors.
As the supply of Covid-19 vaccines has yet to arrive in the Philippines, infectious disease specialist Dr. Bryan Albert Lim said it is important for LGUs to focus on the preparations for the transportation of the vaccine, census on who will administer the vaccination, and a plan on how to monitor the vaccinated persons for adverse effects.
The country has had no prior experience of mass vaccination in a pandemic, he told the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas in an online discussion last Jan. 13.
The physician also appealed to the public to refrain from spreading misconceptions about the vaccine and its procurement. / ANV, NDT / KAL, KFD, WBS