The Department of Health (DOH) sent Zamboanga del Sur 3,800 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to allow the province’s public health frontline workers to continue the vaccination rollout four days after a fire destroyed nearly 150,000 doses stored inside the Integrated Provincial Health Office in Pagadian City.
Dr. Anatalio Cagampang Jr., Zamboanga del Sur provincial health officer and concurrent hospital chief of the Zamboanga del Sur Medical Center, said the DOH sent 3,000 Sinovac vaccine doses and another 800 Astrazeneca doses immediately after the fire.
Local officials expect more vaccine doses to be sent by the health department to Zamboanga del Sur.
Authorities have yet to determine the cause of the fire that destroyed close to 150,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses kept in the IPHO before midnight on Sunday, October 31.
While waiting for more doses, Cagampang said they would prioritize the inoculation of people already scheduled starting on Thursday, November 4.
Cagampang said the vaccination rollout for children with ages 12 and 17 years would have to wait until next week.
He said he was expecting the delivery of a freezer for Pfizer vaccine doses and storage for the Moderna vaccine.
The vaccine replenishment for Zamboanga del Sur was based on a joint advisory of the National Task Force (NTF), and the National Vaccination Operation Center (NVOC) chaired by Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje.
The number of vaccine doses in the fire however baffled health officials.
“We will have to look bakit napakarami ng bakuna nila, at bakit hindi nila na-move (We will have to look why they have that many stored vaccine doses and while they were not able to move it). We will look into that and determine those accountable,” Cabotaje said.
Cagampang said a total of 148,678 vaccine doses were damaged in the fire: 88,938 doses of Pfizer, 36,164 doses of Sinovac, 14,400 doses of Moderna, and 9,176 doses of Astrazeneca.
The wasted Astrazeneca and Pfizer doses were delivered on October 25 and were intended for minors.
Zamboanga del Sur Governor Victor Yu has hinted at pressing charges against those found to have been negligent.
Yu said the fire broke out at the Blue Building of the Zamboanga del Sur Medical Center that housed the IPHO, provincial offices of the DOH and Red Cross, at around 11 pm on Sunday.
Cagampang said the fire started at the basement of the building and destroyed thousands of vaccine doses sent to the province in late October.
Governor Yu said the provincial government was still waiting for a comprehensive report about the incident from the Bureau of Fire Protection.
“We will not jump into any conclusion on what caused the incident but if there is any person who is in neglect of his/her duty which might have caused the incident, I assure that he/she will be administratively, civilly, and criminally charged,” read a statement released by Yu’s office.
Yu said the capitol has asked the DOH to send the province more vaccine doses, and ordered more equipment needed for the storage and distribution of the vaccines. – Rappler.com
Frencie Carreon is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.