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EARLY PREPARATION | City prepares legal groundwork for COVID-19 vaccine rollout




LEGISLATORS have penciled in two committee hearings next week to draft an ordinance for the COVID-19 immunization program of Davao City.

Councilor Joselle Villafuerte, committee on health chairperson, made the announcement during the COVID-19 Alert program aired on the Davao City Disaster Radio on Jan. 6.

“We are scheduling the committee hearings on January 11 and 14. The public can ask questions as it will be broadcast live via FB (Facebook),” she said.

The committee hearings will be transparent to the public to help allay their fears on the vaccine when they hear relevant information from the experts.

The City Health Office, Department of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration are invited to the committee hearings, along with experts on vaccinology, infectious diseases, business leaders, civil society groups, indigenous people leaders, among others.

“Lahat may boses (Everybody will have a voice),” Villafuerte said, adding that they have been monitoring other countries’ initiatives even if no COVID-19 vaccine has been approved yet in the country.

Among the items on the agenda include the storage of the vaccines, facilities needed for it, who will store it, the sufficiency of health care workers to implement the vaccination, and their training will also have to be discussed

She expects senators will soon discuss the vaccine since the Senate committee on finance chair, Sonny Angara, already identified the COVID-19 brands including AstraZeneca, Novavax, Pfizer, Moderna, Sinovac, Gamaleya, and Covax.

But only Pfizer has so far applied for an emergency use authorization (EUA) of its product in the Philippines.

“Tanan ni ginahisgutan na sa national (Everything is being discussed at the national level). We should, at the local level, prepare for the arrival of the different vaccines kung unsa man vaccine na ma approve (whatever vaccine will be approved).”

The third district councilor explained that rolling out the COVID-19 vaccination program would undergo different phases. She saw the need to list down how many vaccines to be procured and how much should be allocated for it, as the city government needs to augment the vaccines that will come from the national government.

“We can’t determine the budget for the vaccines now as it would depend on the cost of the approved vaccine that we will be able to purchase through the Department of Health (DOH),” she said, considering that manufacturers only want to negotiate with the national government through the DOH.

Mayor Sara Duterte also mentioned this in her DCDR program on Jan. 4 that the city has written to vaccine makers, including Pfizer, for direct access to buy the COVID-19 vaccine. Unfortunately though, Pfizer and another manufacturer replied that they do not deal with local government units.

Duterte said they are awaiting the reply of two or three more vaccine developers.

She also said there are certain provisions for the preparation, such as creating a task force to solely focus on which vaccine to use in the city, and forming a committee that will cater to adverse effects of the vaccines or receive reports of its side effects.

“We will use the vaccine with the highest efficacy and safety then we will put people at ease. Kinahanglan lang jud tama ang information na mugawas and magtinabangay mi sa (It’s important that right information is disseminated and we will work together with the) City Health Office and district health and barangay health officials. This will be community-based. Naghulat nalang mi (We’re just waiting for) additional guidelines from DOH being the lead national agency,” Villafuerte added.

Dr. Ashley Lopez, Davao City Health COVID-19 focal person, said that being a highly-urbanized city with about two million population, it would take at least one to two years to complete the phases of the COVID-19 immunization program.

“We are still waiting for the guidelines from the COVID national task force and DOH. It’s good to hear that Davao City will be having a preparation, particularly on the development of the proposed ordinance. So when the time comes, dili na ta magkapa-kapa (we won’t be caught off guard), including the workforce and process to be done for the immunization process,” Lopez said.

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