THE Philippines on Wednesday, May 12, started inoculating its Filipino citizens with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Some 193,050 Pfizer vaccine doses arrived in the country on Monday, May 10, and were distributed to Metro Manila and other areas which can accommodate the product’s storage requirements of -70 to -80°C.
Among the first local government units to dispense the vaccine to their residents were the cities of Makati and San Juan, which received 5,800 and 11,700 doses, respectively.
The Makati Medical Center (MMC) administered the vaccine to qualified Makati residents under priority groups: A1 (health care workers), A2 (elderly), and A3 (persons with comorbidities).
“So far, the challenge is we need to make sure that we maintain the proper temperature requirement of the vaccine,” said MMC director Dr. Saturnino Javier.
He added that they had to fine-tune certain issues with the vaccine administration process.
Likewise, San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora said the city’s medical workers are adjusting its vaccine administration process.
“The number of scheduled recipients for Wednesday is 1,500. We can increase the number in the next few days as our medical workers are still practicing in administering Pfizer,” he said in Filipino during the vaccination drive at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
“Once our medical workers have fully adjusted in the handling of the vaccine doses, our daily capacity will increase,” he added.
Zamora also said that they decided to rent an ultra-cold freezer since it was “more economical.”
“We opted to rent ultra-cold freezer instead of buying one, since it is much more economical and allowed us to spend our budget wisely and use the savings for other COVID-related activities,” he explained.
The San Juan mayor stressed that they can’t waste a single drop of the Pfizer vaccine.
“This type of vaccine is quite sensitive. Each dose is like gold. We don’t want to put it to waste and we want it to be useful,” said Zamora.
Meanwhile, Manila City announced that it will start its Pfizer vaccine administration on Thursday, May 13.
“The first thing that will happen on Thursday, the inoculation of Pfizer. It will be held at the Sta. Ana Hospital, 210 doses, to recognize our medical frontliners. They will be the first ones to receive the vaccine for the first two days,” said Manila Mayor Francisco ‘Isko Moreno’ Domagoso in a Facebook live on Wednesday.
The Philippine government is eyeing to vaccinate at least 25 million Filipinos within the third quarter of the year.
“Our target is we should have a better Christmas this year. So our strategy is to achieve the 25 million, the most vulnerable,” the country’s vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said.
“If we (vaccinate) them, we can contain death and the fatalities. We have low and high targets wherein once we achieve the 25 million, at least we will have what is called the initial herd containment,” he added.
The Philippine Department of Health (DOH) said some 2.5 million doses have since been administered in 3,688 vaccination sites across the country as of May 11.