Monday, June 14, 2021

EXPLAINER: Cebu City aims to vaccinate 700,000 people. 1.4M doses cost about P2B. 30,000 got one each so far or 0.02% of target. Vaccination paused citywide: 0 vaccines.

CEBU. The vaccination site at Robinsons Galleria (left) where Cebu City Vice Mayor Mike Rama (right) received his first dose of Covid-19 vaccine on April 20, 2021. (SunStar File/Cebu City PIO)

WHERE WE ARE ON VACCINES. We learned this from Cebu City Vice Mayor Mike Rama, head of the city's Vaccination Storm Convenors, from an interview on Jayson Monteclar's "The Not So Late Show" Monday, April 26:

[1] The vaccine convenors target 700,000 people to achieve a "substantial herd immunity" in the city. That would require 1.4 million doses (double the intended number of vaccinees) costing about P2 billion. The city earlier appropriated P400 million and may appropriate an additional P100 million Wednesday, April 28.

[2] Two letters of intent (LOI) were issued by City Mayor Edgardo Labella, upon the City Council's authority, to suppliers of Covovax and AstraZeneca for P100 million worth of each brand of vaccine. The City Council, however, has still to talk with AstraZeneca, which, VM Rama says, has been a problem as no representative has yet conferred with the Sanggunian. A third brand is Covaxin, whose marketing arm is a group of Cebuanos with whom the City Council conferred by Zoom last week.

[3] Covovax and Covaxin are manufactured in India where the surge of Covid-19 cases might cause in failure of delivery to other countries such as Africa and the Philippines.

It is not known however if any supplier already made contractual commitment to the national government. As to Cebu City, only the city's LOI for Covovax and AstraZeneca has been issued and that is no contract yet.

When asked by Monteclar if "we are helpless" without the national government, Rama said it is now more a matter of availability of supply from outside.

[4] Cebu City shut down its three vaccination sites -- Robinson's Galeria, SM City and University of Cebu -- Friday, April 23, because there were no more vaccines. Mayor Edgardo Labella called on vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. to allow the city to purchase its own vaccines, saying the supply cut-off was disappointing.

Six months target

Rama described the flow of vaccines "tigis-tigis" or in installment or trickles, which thus embarrasses the claim of a "vaccination storm" from City Hall publicists.

Chief convenor Rama estimated six months to complete the vaccination of 700,000 people. He set the condition for his estimate a regular and continuous supply. But that in turn depends on a number of factors he did not say or was not asked:

[1] How many doses the national government could allocate for Cebu City -- after all, IATF serves the entire country -- and how much balance the city would've to pay with its own funds;

[2] How the city would raise money for the vaccines that it must buy for itself. The P500 million won't be enough and it might have to borrow or put off payment on the South Road Properties loan;

[3] Whether the suppliers could make a steady delivery, particularly in the case of India, which, hard-pressed on its own needs for the vaccines it produces, might refuse or fail to deliver.

Herd immunity

For the first time, a high official talked of a target number of people it plans to vaccinate in Cebu City. VM Rama, presumably after consulting with his panel of convenors, specified 700,000 in the Monteclar interview.

Herd or community immunity is when a large part of the population of an area becomes immune to Covid-19: enough number of people becomes resistant to the virus that causes the disease. There are estimates of the people to be inoculated -- 60 percent to 70 percent of the population -- before herd immunity "kicks in and infection rates start to go down." The 700,000 target for Cebu City is about 70 percent of the city's estimated 2021 population of 994,000 (per 2015 census plus estimated growth rate).

Rama also didn't say if his 700,000 vacinees target excludes the number of people who'd refuse to be jabbed. He indicated though that the issue of compelling vaccination might have to be resolved by the Supreme Court as the individual has the right to refuse because of his right to privacy.


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