5 cities in NCR begin vaccination rollout after receiving Sputnik V vaccines

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 4, 2021   •   55

MANILA, Philippines — Five cities in the National Capital Region (NCR) have conducted their vaccination rollout after receiving the supply of Sputnik V vaccines from Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute.

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III and other members of the National Task Force against COVID-19 led the rollout on Tuesday (May 4).

Vaccination rollouts were conducted in Manila, Makati, Muntinlupa, Taguig, and Parañaque City. Each city received 3,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccine.

Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez reported 1,500 from groups A1, A2, and A3 were able to receive the Russian-made vaccine. The mayor also allowed walk-ins.

Nag-accept po tayo ng walk-in as quick substitution list. Kasi hindi po dapat masayang ang ating vaccine (We accepted walk-ins as quick substitution list because the vaccines cannot be wasted),” he said.

Dr. Jennifer Lou de Guzman from Taguig City Health Office said they did not change any protocols in their vaccination rollout. They have also vaccinated several of the personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Ang mga empleyado ng PNP ay nakasama even though they are not in the medical field, they are our frontliners. Sila ay kasama sa team na nagsasagawa ng contact tracing (PNP personnel were also included even though they are not in the medical field. They are our frontliners. They are included in the contact tracing team),” she said.

Makati City aims to vaccinate 800 individuals belonging to A1-A3 priority list of the DOH while Muntinlupa City is still conducting surveys for those who wish to get vaccinated with Sputnik V.

Meanwhile, Duque said an additional 485,000 doses of Sputnik V are set to arrive in the country before the end of May.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said he did not expect the public’s warm reception of Sputnik V.

“This is already an initial success. First, nakita natin ang acceptance (we saw the acceptance)We saw the enormous acceptance ng ating mga kababayan (of our fellowmen). They are eager to take it,he said. AAC (with reports from Janice Ingente)

Duterte: I asked Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping for help on COVID-19 vaccines but no talks on WPS

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday disclosed that he asked help from his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in obtaining COVID-19 vaccines but insisted that they did not discuss issues on the West Philippine Sea.

During his Talk to the People public address on Monday night, Duterte recalled how he called Xi when the Philippines had yet to get any supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Let me just also say na itong history na… for public consumption na ito. Tumawag ako kay President Xi Jinping, sinabi ko kasi noong kasagsagan ng walang dumating talaga, walang makapkap si Secretary (Carlito) Galvez (Jr.), tumawag ako, sabi ko, ‘Mr. President (Xi), I would like to ask for your help until now Philippines is at a loss on how to get vaccines,’” he said.

“Sabi niya, ‘it’s okay we will help you.’ Ganoon lang. Hindi naman sinabi na kalimutan mo yung Scarborough Shoal, bigyan kita… Sinabi niya lang as simple as that,” he added.

The Philippines first received 600,000 doses of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines that were donated by the Chinese government on February 28. The national government used this supply to roll out its vaccination program on March 1.

In total, the Philippines has received 1 million donated Sinovac vaccine doses from China, including the 400,000 doses that were delivered in March.

Duterte stood by his earlier statement that the Philippines owes a debt of gratitude to China for all its help but emphasized that there would be no compromise on the West Philippine Sea issue.

“It’s never, never wrong to say that I owe you a debt of gratitude. Totoo eh, binigyan tayo, tinanggap natin, ginamit natin,” he said.

“But it does not mean na tanggapin ko ang bakuna tapos sabihin ko kalimutan ko na yung claim diyan sa West Philippine sea, okay na yun dahil sa bakuna… It was never like that, the world does not operate like that,” he added.

He said there would be no compromise on the issue and that China knows it.

“Maski bahain tayo dito ng vaccine, gagamitin ko pa rin pero sabihin ko ‘hindi ito kabayaran’. Iba ito. This is a Philippine national interest, this is not a health issue that nagpasalamat ako,” he said.

Correction:
An earlier version of this article misstated that “they did discuss issues.” 

OCTA suggests calibrated easing of restrictions in NCR to maintain downward trend in COVID cases

Marje Pelayo   •   May 10, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) reproduction rate in the National Capital Region has gone down since the region was placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), according to the OCTA Research Team.

However, UP Professor and OCTA Research Fellow Dr. Ranjit Rye said the region’s daily attack rate, positivity rate, and ICU occupancy in hospitals remain high.

“Generally speaking, the trend is downward for the whole region and NCR Plus. This is good for all of us. But we have also noted the daily attack rate is still high in many cities in the NCR,” the OCTA Research Group Fellow said.

“Second, the positivity rate is still high at 14 percent. And we’re hoping that in the next few days it will further improve. The third thing we need to look into, as Dr. Butch has also mentioned, is the fact that the ICU occupancy is still quite high,” he added.

Dr. Rye said the team understands why the government needs to extend stricter quarantine restrictions given the current situation.

“We can understand if the government will have discussions on extending the MECQ, really because we need some more time to heal. We also need some more time for government interventions, such as contact tracing and expansion of hospital capacity, apart from testing,” he said.

He said the trends right now are good although the NCR is “not yet where we are supposed to be as far as managing the crisis in the particular region is concerned.”

But they noted that the MECQ that the region is right now is not that which was implemented in August of last year in terms of mobility.

“If you look at the mobility numbers, we are actually much more comparable to a GCQ,” said UST Professor Nicanor Austriaco.

Austriaco added that while they understand the government’s move to open the economy, “we want to sustain the good trends that we have so far.”

President Rodrigo Duterte is set to announce the new quarantine classification soon and the team wants it done with caution.

“We will support whatever the government decides. What we’re suggesting is caution. What we’re suggesting is a calibrated slow exit strategy so that we can sustain the trends,” Dr. Rye noted.

One area of caution, he said, is to prevent the entry of the new and more contagious variant from India.

He said the group is awaiting the result of the [genome] sequencing done on the five COVID-19 positive individuals who entered the Philippines from India.

Rye added that another consideration is the rollout of improvement in COVID-response, such as infrastructure, training of contact tracing, and expansion of hospital facilities.

The OCTA research team reported improvements in hospital occupancy in Metro Manila even as the daily attack rate continues to drop.

“We will expect similarly, with about 2 or 3-week delay, a drop in cases,” Prof. Austriaco said.

Meanwhile, taking note of the data from Israel, the U.K., and the U.S., the team said it will help if, at least, 45 to 50% of the population will be vaccinated to see the effect of the government’s vaccination program on the number of COVID-19 cases.

“Which means here in NCR, we have to vaccinate about six million people of our 12 million people here before we see a substantial effect on the number of cases,” Austriaco added hoping that the government’s vaccine strategy and vaccine campaign will be realized before the end of the year.

As of May 9, there are 1,101,990 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country. Of this number, a total of 1,022,224 have recovered while 18,472 succumbed to the disease.

DOH: NCR Plus to get most of newly-delivered AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses

Robie de Guzman   •   May 10, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The National Capital Region (NCR) and nearby provinces of Cavite, Bulacan, Rizal, and Laguna – collectively called NCR Plus – will get the highest allocation of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that were delivered to the country over the weekend.

In an online briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said a quarter of the additional two million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines will be distributed in Metro Manila followed by areas in the Central Luzon and Calabarzon regions.

“Nasa NCR Plus bubble po yung pinakamataas na alokasyon dahil alam naman po natin yung focus natin so we can be able to have herd containment here in this epicenter of this disease,” she said.

The health official said the allocations have been prepared and the vaccines will be distributed starting Monday.

“Nagawa na yung allocation list and ready to deploy na tayo starting today,” she said.

Other regions will also receive AstraZeneca vaccines but Vergeire did not specify the allocation breakdown.

The additional doses of AstraZeneca vaccines from the World Health Organization (WHO)-led COVAX Facility arrived in the country on Saturday.

The fresh vaccine supply was delivered after Philippine health authorities announced last Friday the official resumption of AstraZeneca vaccine administration for eligible populations.

The DOH previously suspended the use of AstraZeneca vaccines following the recommendation of the local Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to temporarily halt its use on persons below 60 years old after reports of “very rare” cases of Vaccine-Induced Thrombosis and Thrombocytopenia (VIIT).

VITT is a very rare condition of blood clots associated with low platelet counts that can occur 4 to 28 days after receiving a viral vector vaccine such as AstraZeneca, the DOH said.

“After discussions with the DOH All Experts Group and the Philippine College of Hematology and Transfusion Medicine (PCHTM), it was concluded that there are currently no known risk factors for VITT and that the benefits of receiving the vaccine against COVID-19 still outweighs the risk,” the department said in an earlier statement.

The DOH, however, said that specific guidelines and measures will still be enforced to mitigate the risks of vaccination.

Healthcare workers (HCWs) in vaccination sites will also be trained to detect and manage possible symptoms of VITT and refer them accordingly to the appropriate health facility for definitive workup and management.

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