Cebu City prepares to procure vaccine for coronavirus

File photo

WITH the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) granting an emergency use authority to the Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine, the Cebu City Vaccine Advisory Board (VAB) will have to choose a vaccine that will best suit the needs of city residents.

City Health officer-in-charge Jeffrey Ibones, VAB chairman, said the City has been in talks with various suppliers, but it cannot make a direct purchase until the national government releases procurement guidelines.

Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez earlier told Mayor Edgardo Labella that the City could buy from Pfizer since it has a storage facility that has a cooling system capable of storing the latter’s vaccine at minus 70 degrees Centigrade.

Labella, too, had said he would prefer a Pfizer vaccine with its efficacy rate of 95 percent.

Although the board has started formulating guidelines, Ibones said members are also considering problems that may arise.

He said they need to focus on transporting the vaccine to the city, the capability of individuals who will handle the vaccine and when the vaccines will actually be available in the country.

Some Cebuano netizens have complained about the City’s apparent lack of action with regard to the purchase of vaccines, especially with news that around 30 local government units (LGUs) around the country have already signed advanced purchase agreements with manufacturers.

Ibones said this does not mean that the City is not preparing to purchase a vaccine.

“Even if we say the City already has a memorandum of agreement to purchase vaccines, it still won’t be able to get to the vaccines without guidelines from the national government,” he said in Cebuano.

In his communication with Galvez, Labella said the instruction from the national government is to follow the tripartite agreement among the LGU, the national government and the supplier.

As long as there are no concrete guidelines and a green light from the national government allowing LGUs to purchase vaccines, the City cannot move.

In the meantime, he said the City will just focus on preparing logistics.

Galvez had already promised Labella that the national government would prioritize the city in its vaccination program.

Labella said the City will augment what the national government will provide by purchasing its own using the City’s money.

The City Council already approved in December the amount of P400 million, which is included in the 2021 budget, for this purpose.

The council will add P100 million more this year, as the City targets to vaccinate 70 percent of residents for free.

Aside from Ibones, the VAB is also composed of infectious disease specialist Bryan Lim, a representative of the Philippine College of Physicians; and Junjie Zuasula, head of the Department of Health 7 Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit.

Cebu City has 552 active Covid-19 cases, based on the data released by the agency on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021.

The city has logged a total of 11,333 confirmed cases with 10,082 having recovered and 699 having died from the disease.

It has been recording two-digit cases daily since Dec. 29, 2020.

City Councilor Joel Garganera, deputy chief implementer of the city’s Emergency Operations Center, said the City is “in a better position to address this compared to where we were seven to six months ago,” referring to the current spike in numbers.

“We have the logistics, infrastructure and experience to control this,” he said.

Garganera said the mayor suspended some restrictions last December with the expectation that the public would practice self-discipline, but this was not the case.

As a result, Garganera said law enforcers will be “uncompromising” in enforcing health protocols.

For the past days, police personnel have been conducting Oplan Bulabog, inspecting different establishments to ensure these are compliant with health policies. (JJL)


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