Regional health authorities have suggested that COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech should be flown from Metro Manila straight to Bohol and no longer pass through Metro Cebu to avoid spoilage.
“What our regional director is saying now is Manila should directly transport it kay para usa lang ka flight, deretso na sa [Bohol], dili na daghan pa og agian,” Department of Health 7 spokesperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche told the Chronicle on Thursday.
Bohol can now receive vaccines through the DOH-run Governor Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital (GCGMH) in Tagbilaran City and the local government unit of Tagbilaran, which procured its own ultra-cold freezer, mobile freezers and cold chain transport coolers.
Jabs developed by the American pharmaceutical and the German biotechnology firm require ultra-cold conditions to maintain their efficacy.
Last week, Pfizer vaccines were flown to Metro Cebu but Loreche said that none were allocated for Bohol due to the lack of an ultra-cold storage facility in Bohol.
Loreche said that the GCGMH informed the DOH 7 that it has an ultra-cold freezer when the vaccines were already in Cebu and had already been allocated.
“When we were discussing already the distribution for Pfizer, tanan man nakahibalo na ultra-cold freezer ang kinahanglan, so based sa cold chain nato, dili matagaan ang [Gallares] because wala siya mo signify, wala siya mo inform na capable siya to store it. There was a problem in the communication between sa cold chain nila ug sa amoa diri sa DOH 7. I think that’s where the breakdown in the process is,” Loreche said.
The regional health official said that the GCGMH should have coordinated with DOH 7 for them to be given a share of the jabs.
“For them to receive the Pfizer vaccines, they must have an ultra-low freezer but apparently, we did not receive a notification that they have it already. Ngana man gud na siya, there has to be a communication between a facility and our cold-chain manager to know kung naa ba sila or wala, so they will be included in the distribution,” she added.
Loreche noted that a facility should also have trained personnel to handle and administer the vaccines.
She noted that the Pfizer jabs require specific steps for preparation and mixing with a saline solution before administering unlike other vaccines that are already pre-mixed.
“From the time na e-store na siya, inig hawa nimo ana niya sa ultra-low freezer, kinahanglan na paspas kaayo ang inyong team inig thaw ana at a certain temperature,” she said.
She explained that once thawed and mixed with the saline solution, the vial should already be administered within “several hours.”
Each vial can be used to inoculate six people.
Last week, Provincial Health Office (PHO) chief and BIATF spokesperson Dr. Yul Lopez said that Bohol does not need an ultra-cold facility as there will be limited supply of Pfizer vaccines for the country.
Governor Arthur Yap echoed the statement saying that the province is not willing to spend on an ultra-cold freezer and should instead focus on the rollout of “mass vaccines” or other brands that do not require special handling and storage.
Yap also noted that only Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Davao have facilities that can store that vaccines.
However, Yap’s statement drew heavy flak from the public prompting the governor to issue a statement and backtrack, saying that Bohol has a freezer to store Pfizer vaccines.
The governor was referring to the GCGMH freezer, whose availability was apparently not known by the Yap-led BIATF before he made the statement on not needing a facility to store Pfizer jabs.
Although the GCGMH is under the DOH’s administration, the hospital leadership under its medical chief Dr. Mutya Macuno is part of the BIATF which conducts regular meetings on COVID-19 updates.