Covid-19 vaccination begins

LESS than 24 hours after the arrival of the first batch of vaccines against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in the Philippines, some government officials and medical frontliners had themselves inoculated Monday, March 1, 2021, to kick off the vaccination program and raise confidence in the vaccine.
Health workers at Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City will be the first to get vaccine jabs in Central Visayas on Thursday, March 4, Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Assistant Secretary Anthony Gerard Jonji Gonzalez said in an online press conference Monday.
More than 50 percent of the VSMMC workers agreed to have themselves inoculated, said Dr. Junjie Zuasola of the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of the Department of Health (DOH) 7.
In the first week of February, DOH 7 spokesperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche said 2,480 of 2,987 VSMMC healthcare workers agreed to be inoculated.
In the same press conference Monday, Loreche said they have yet to know how many doses of CoronaVac, the inactivated vaccine developed by Sinovac Life Sciences, will be delivered to VSMMC.
First recipient
Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, director of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (PGH), was the first to receive a dose of CoronaVac at around 9:30 a.m. Monday.
Others who received the first of two doses of the Sinovac vaccine at the PGH were Dr. Edsel Salvana, director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the UP-National Institutes of Health; Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Eric Domingo; and Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Benhur Abalos Jr.
Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., vaccine czar and chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19, underwent medical assessment prior to vaccination. He was later inoculated after the healthcare workers at the PGH.
Health workers first
The National Government targets to administer the first dose of the Sinovac vaccine to all healthcare workers nationwide, who are willing to receive the vaccine, before the end of March, said Galvez.
Aside from VSMMC, the vaccines will also be delivered to the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City on March 5 and 6.
UP-PGH, a state-owned tertiary hospital, received 1,200 vials of the Sinovac vaccine, each containing a dose. Between 60 and 80 personnel had signed up for vaccination.
At the Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium, where 600 vials were delivered, testing czar Vince Dizon and medical center chief Alfonso Famaran Jr. kicked off the vaccinations.
A total of 178 personnel had agreed to be inoculated with the Sinovac vaccine.
At the V. Luna Medical Center in Quezon City, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) held ceremonial inoculation for Dr. Fatima Claire Navarro, commanding officer of V. Luna Hospital, and two other doctors, Lt. Col. Cynthia Liao and Major Joel Lorenzo Rollo.
In a statement, the AFP said it will also hold a ceremonial vaccination in primary healthcare facilities catering to Covid-19 patients in its major branches of service in the National Capital Region on March 2.
At the Philippine Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio, its commanding officer, Dr. Joel Anastacio, led the ceremonial vaccination together with his team of medical frontliners.
The Philippines received a donation of 600,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines to reach the country, on Sunday, Feb. 28.
The Sinovac vaccine is given in two doses four weeks apart to clinically healthy individuals who are 18 to 59 years old.
In granting an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Sinovac vaccine, the FDA said it is not recommended for healthcare workers who deal directly with Covid-19 patients because of clinical trial results in Brazil that showed an efficacy of only 50.38 percent for this group.
Efficacy
The vaccine, however, has been found to be 100 percent efficacious against severe Covid-19 and hospitalization, and 78 percent effective in preventing mild symptoms among individuals who are 18 to 59 years old.
Despite the FDA recommendation, the National Immunization Technical Advisory Council (Nitag) had retained the prioritization framework and gave healthcare workers the right of first refusal to receive the vaccine.
Nitag members stressed that vaccination is purely voluntary.
Chans plan
The mayor of Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu, Junard Ahong Chan, said his office intends to buy CoronaVac, saying he wants a similar vaccine distributed by the National Government.
He said he will allow himself to be inoculated in public with health officials to allay fears that vaccines are harmful.
Chan said the citys 1,400 health workers will be prioritized in the vaccination.
Bright business outlook
Cebus business leaders said the arrival of the first doses of Covid-19 vaccines heralds economic recovery.
Felix Taguiam, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the arrival of the Sinovac vaccines brings relief, at least.
Im sure more will come in the following days. Any brand is better than no vaccine. Lets get everyone to understand that being vaccinated is the only way we can all move forward, he said.
Steven Yu, president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the business sectors confidence was greatly increased and boosted as the government showed it can deliver the vaccines.
The start of the vaccination, said Yu, also signals that the mobility and other restrictions might be removed soon once the country gets at least two million people vaccinated, as mentioned by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Lifting the restrictions can significantly increase economic activities and shorten economic recovery timeline. Livelihood for many people will be restored, and poverty levels will be greatly reduced, he said.
Boosting consumer confidence is the future effect of the vaccines arrival and rollout in the country, said Rey Calooy, chairman of the Filipino Cebuano Business Club.
Calooy, however, tempers his outlook, saying: We can only see the effects when we have fully vaccinated at least more than 50 percent of the intended number of population that we can vaccinate to get the economy running. (MVI, KFD, JOB, GCM / SunStar Philippines)