Labella to vaccine czar: Allow Cebu City to buy own vaccines

·5 min read

CEBU City has run out of vaccines against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), forcing the City Government to halt its vaccine rollout for senior citizens at noon on Friday, April 23, 2021.

It also prompted Mayor Edgardo Labella to call vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. to allow the City Government to purchase its own vaccines.

The City started inoculating members of the second priority sector, which are senior citizens, on April 19.

Labella, who belongs to this sector, was “quite disappointed” with the recent development.

“If there will be no more free (vaccines) to be sent by the national government, they shall pass (so) that the City will use its own funds with the proper observance of protocols,” Labella said, adding that the City will enter into a tripartite agreement with the national government and the supplier of vaccines for the procurement.

The City has allocated P500 million for this purpose and has been negotiating with two vaccine distributors in case the national government will give it the go signal.

Galvez, for his part, has assured the mayor that Cebu City will receive another batch of Covid-19 vaccines before the end of the month.

“He (Galvez) will see to it that we will continuously be supplied by the national government,” Labella said.

Labella urged his fellow senior citizens to remain patient and to wait for the City to resume its vaccination program.

On Monday, April 26, the Project Balik Buhay (PBB) Vaccination initiative announced that the 3,500 employees and members belonging to the A1 (health care workers), A2 (senior citizens) and A3 (adults with comorbidities) priority groups from 246 companies and organizations that submitted their masterlists for vaccination to the Department of Health and to their respective local government units have received the first dose of the two-dose vaccine.

“Project Balik Buhay aims to start the vaccination of the second batch of company masterlists once approved and vaccine supply is allocated,” it said in a statement.

Monday was the last day of vaccination for the first batch.

The PBB continues to accept company applications for registration with the final deadline for submission on Friday, April 30.

“We look forward to receiving more company applications as we continue to save lives and restore livelihoods one dose at a time,” the PBB said.

The PBB Private Sector partnership sets up Department of Health (DOH)-accredited but private sector-funded and -managed vaccination centers. It will help augment the capacity of government vaccination centers at no cost to the government nor to the Cebuanos who avail themselves of the services.

The private sector in Cebu will shoulder all operating expenses as well as medical consumables and medications at the PBB private sector vaccination centers.

Establishments, particularly restaurants, have been called to join the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC).

HRRAC president Alfred Reyes said an establishment, once it becomes a member, will be guided accordingly on how to get its employees vaccinated.

He stressed the importance of vaccination to the recovery of industries affected by restrictive measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said some employees in quarantine and isolation hotels in Cebu have already been vaccinated through the PBB.

The DOH 7 announced that 93,500 individuals have been vaccinated in Central Visayas, as of Sunday, April 25.

Of the 131,781 eligible medical frontliners under the A1 priority group, 86,279 have received the first dose.

For the 572,626 senior citizens who have registered for vaccination and are on the masterlist, only 7,249 have been injected with the vaccine.

Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, DOH 7 spokesperson, said Central Visayas received 148,560 Sinovac vaccine doses and 30,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses.

The vaccines are all accounted for and had been released to vaccination centers, she said.

Loreche said the DOH 7 has yet to receive any advice from the national government on when the next vaccine supply will arrive or how many doses will be allocated to the region.

She said they expect the next shipment to be composed of Pfizer, Sputnik V and Sinovac vaccine doses.

She assured that Central Visayas is capable of storing Pfizer and Sputnik V vaccines, which need a cold-chain storage or ultra-low temperature freezer.

Aside from the DOH 7 and the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City, some private hospitals have cold-chain storage facilities, Loreche said.

Should the national government allocate Pfizer and Sputnik V vaccines to the region, these should be distributed in highly urbanized cities, she said.

She said the DOH 7 has to consider logistics. Since these vaccines have to be stored at a lower temperature, they cannot travel long distances for a long period of time.

Meanwhile, Loreche said Covid-19 cases in Central Visayas have flattened again.

On Monday, the DOH 7 logged 55 new cases: 14 in Cebu City, nine in Lapu-Lapu City, seven in Mandaue City, 16 in Cebu Province, nine in Bohol and zero in Negros Oriental and Siquijor.

The critical care utilization rate in the region remains at 18.6 percent, which means only 161 of the 865 Covid-19 beds are occupied.

Also on Monday, the DOH reported nearly 9,000 additional coronavirus infections nationwide, pushing the cumulative case count past the one-million mark.

In the DOH case bulletin, the cumulative case count increased to 1,006,428, including 8,929 new Covid-19 cases.

There were 70 additional mortalities, less than 100 for the first time in six days. These raised the Covid-19 death toll to 16,853. The case fatality rate declined further to 1.67 percent.

Through its time-based recovery scheme, the DOH reported 11,333 new recoveries on Monday, bringing the total to 914,952.

With recoveries exceeding the new infections, the number of active cases further decreased to 74,623. This constituted 7.4 percent of the cumulative case count.

The daily positivity rate stayed below 20 percent. (JJL, JOB, KFD, MVI / SunStar Philippines)