COVID-19

In race vs variants, Pasay, high-risk areas priority for vaccine deliveries

Sofia Tomacruz
In race vs variants, Pasay, high-risk areas priority for vaccine deliveries

PRIORITY. A hospital worker stores Sinovac vaccines in a freezer at the Sta. Ana Hospital that will be used for the vaccination of Manila City government medical frontliners on March 2, 2021.

Rappler photo

Philippine vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr says this strategy is needed to combat the recent spike in infections and ensure health workers in high risk areas are able to respond to cases

Philippine vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr said on Thursday, March 4, that Pasay City and other areas reporting a spike in COVID-19 cases will be prioritized for the allocation of vaccine shipments to the country. 

Ang ginagawa po natin sa distribution natin sa Sinovac ngayon at sa ating future vaccines, talgang concentrated sa Pasay and other areas na nakita nating tumataas (ang mga kaso),” Galvez said in an interview with CNN Philippines’ Pinky Webb. 

(The distribution for Sinovac and our future vaccines will really be concentrated in Pasay [City] and other areas where we see an increase in cases.) 

Galvez made the statement following the recent spike in coronavirus cases reported in Pasay City, where cases of the South Africa variant have been detected. The Pasay City local government earlier placed 210 households in 77 barangays on lockdown for two weeks following the surge in cases.

The Department of Health (DOH) said it was closely watching the city, now at “critical risk” classification for local government units, after the two-week growth rate of COVID-19 cases was at 386%. Despite the increase in cases, however, the healthcare utilization rate or capacity of hospitals to cater to coronavirus patients was at 46% – what the DOH still considered “safe.”

Aside from Pasay City, Galvez said the government would also distribute vaccines to areas recording over a 300% increase in active cases to ensure health workers in the area are given protection to respond to climbing infections. 

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PH to prioritize high-risk areas, sectors for COVID-19 vaccine rollout

PH to prioritize high-risk areas, sectors for COVID-19 vaccine rollout
Why this matters

After the Philippines launched its mass vaccination campaign on March 1, experts say what’s crucial now is to ensure the quick administration of vaccines to health workers, other priority sectors, and the rest of eligible Filipinos quickly.

But doing so won’t be easy as the country is yet to sign supply agreements with drug firms that would guarantee vaccine doses for Filipinos. So far, the Philippines has been making use of donated Sinovac Coronavac doses from China and AstraZeneca doses from the COVAX global facility. (READ: Philippines to start vaccine campaign amid uncertainty)

With the timeline and supply of vaccines uncertain, Galvez earlier said he will be traveling to India to finalize an agreement with the Serum Institute of India for vaccines developed by Novavax and AstraZeneca. Aside from securing doses, the retired general said negations will also include the possibility of earlier deliveries to the Philippines.

Galvez’s trip is scheduled to take place from March 9 to 12. 

Aside from this, Galvez said supply agreements to be finalized in the coming days include those with Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – manufacturers that the Philippines had been in talks with. The country wants to purchase about 20 million doses from Moderna and 5 million doses from Johnson & Johnson. 

The Philippines earlier detected the presence of the South Africa variant and UK variant in the country, both of which have fueled recent deadly surges worldwide. Health experts have also warned that the South African variant called B1351 is more infectious than the original version of the virus and may have an impact on vaccine efficacy. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.