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Capitol’s stand on vaccines explained
By: Eleanor Valeros | Published Monday, January 18, 2021
In a recent dialogue with Provincial Board members and mayors, Gov. Gwen Garcia reiterated her stand to wait for the national government’s policy on the Covid-19 vaccine as there are many considerations that need to be taken into account to properly implement this. (Lito Tecson)

Cebu Province is moving on and moving forward.

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia underscored this in a dialogue with members of the Provincial Board and mayors Friday, January 15.

The conference provided guidance on the position of the Cebu Provincial Government on Covid-19 vaccination and on additional measures relative to the new variant of Sars-CoV2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – Coronavirus 2).

Garcia called on the mayors to avoid pushing the “panic button” as regards the scramble for vaccine.

While the National Task Force Against Covid-19 (NTF) appreciates the initiatives of the local government units (LGU), Department of Health (DOH) 7 Director Dr. Jaime Bernadas reiterated vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez’s statement that LGUs “cannot procure and roll out Covid-19 vaccines on their own.”

Bernadas said procurement must be coordinated with the national government through the NTF and the DOH in a tripartite agreement involving LGUs and pharmaceutical companies. 

This is meant to align the efforts of LGUs with the vaccine initiative of the national government which integrates and consolidates all resources and initiatives, he added.

The health chief also clarified that the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) issued by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration does not cover the commercial use of the vaccines. 

This means that manufacturers cannot sell directly to the LGUs nor to any entity, unless they are under the vaccine initiative of the national government.

DOH 7 Chief Pathologist Dr. Mary Jane Loreche said that most of the vaccines considered have not actually finished clinical trials for phase 3.

“Ang naa lang gyud sigurado nga naay emergency use authorization that has been approved is Pfizer to be rolled out by February for National Capital Region, Cebu, and Davao because logistically, it would be a nightmare because the storage will require minus 70 degrees, or ultra-low freezers, for us to keep it,” Loreche explained.

“Once you thaw the vaccine, you need to consume all of it in five days, otherwise you are going to remove the efficacy of the vaccine,” she added.

She also said that because this is unlike other vaccination programs they have embarked upon, they have to make sure individuals are medically cleared first and monitored not just for the acute reactions but more on the chronic side effects that will manifest. 

Garcia told the mayors, “I know you’re being badgered, pangutan-on mo pila ma’y funds nga inyong gi-set aside para sa vaccine. Balik-balikan mo, ang media mangutana. 

“And the temptation to give in to that bandwagon in order to look good is great, nga mo-announce dayon ta nga mo-set aside ta og P1 billion para sa vaccine. Diha lang ta kutob, announcement kay dili ta ka-proceed because it needs the emergency use approval and as of now only one pa – Pfizer – unya dili pa na available,” the governor added.

Garcia also reiterated that she would rather wait for national government policy on the vaccine.

“Let us trust the national government here. All previous immunization program is rolled out by the national government, suma - measles, polio - kay naa may certain safety protocols to be put in place, and the strategies as well,” she stressed.

For vaccines alone, the national government has allocated P70 billion to be sourced from foreign multilateral and bilateral loans; P2.5 billion for logistics and other supplies from the 2021 General Appropriations Act; and another P10 billion from the Bayanihan II Act in relation to Republic Act 1150 on Continuing Appropriations for a total of P82.5 billion.

The national government intends to have 50 to 70 million Filipinos vaccinated or approximately 70 percent of the 107 million population of the country.

Doses for 2021 is estimated at close to 150 million on the presumption of two doses per person.

“If we will announce now, we are setting aside this much, pangitaon pa na natong 30 percent. And that is on the pretext that all of these Filipinos will allow themselves to be vaccinated. Right now, as told by Dr. Jane, there are certain concerns, these have to be strictly monitored. So why this scramble to announce?” the governor emphasized.

“And I’m not one to release a statement just to make good headlines and good sound bites,” she further said.

Cebu Province is also set to partner with the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC), a government owned and controlled corporation attached to the DOH created under Republic Act 8423, otherwise known as the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act of 1997.

Barangay health workers will undergo training on traditional methods of healing complementary to medical care. These methods see to it that these are doable at the household level.

Additional measures on new Sars-CoV-2 variant

On January 14, Garcia signed a memorandum to mayors on additional measures relative to the new variant of Sars-Cov2.

The memo is in consonance with the Memorandum of the Executive Secretary dated December 31, 2020; the DOH Memo No. 2020-0540, and the Department of Transportation (DoTr) Memo dated January 12, 2021.

This cover returning Filipino citizens coming from or who have been to the countries mentioned in DOH Memo No. 2020-0540 and DoTr Memo dated Jan. 12.

Within 14 days immediately preceding arrival in Cebu, they shall be required to undergo an absolute facility-based 14-day quarantine period notwithstanding a negative RT-PCR result.

Returning Filipinos may choose the facility of their preference, which could be an LGU facility or a hotel facility, provided, it has been certified and accredited by the government.

Those who opt to be quarantined in an accredited hotel facility shall be required to pay for their accommodation during the quarantine period and that they shall be informed of the aforementioned requirements prior to their arrival in Cebu to ensure compliance.

As for passengers, whether Filipinos or foreigners, merely transiting thru countries mentioned in the said memos “shall not be deemed as having come from or having been to such country, provided that they stayed in the airport the whole time and were not cleared for entry into these countries by their immigration authorities.”

Upon arrival in Cebu, such passengers do not have to complete a full 14-day facility-based quarantine, and may be allowed home quarantine upon testing negative of the RT-PCR at point of entry, pursuant to existing protocols of the national government.

Transiting foreign passengers who left the airport or were cleared for entry into the list of countries by their immigration authorities shall be prohibited from entering Cebu.

Transiting Filipino citizens who left the airport or were cleared for entry into the countries covered by their immigration authorities shall not be prohibited from entering Cebu.

However, they will be required to undergo an absolute facility-based 14-day quarantine period notwithstanding a negative RT-PCR result. They may choose the facility of their preference for as long as it has been certified by the government.

Transiting Filipino citizens who opt to be quarantined in an accredited hotel facility shall be required to pay for their accommodation during the quarantine period.

Persons from countries not covered by the DOH and DoTr memos shall strictly finish the 14-day quarantine following the existing quarantine protocols of the Province of Cebu, which allow home quarantine after testing negative of RT-PCR at point of entry.

The identified countries are Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, Pakistan, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Oman, People’s Republic of China, and United Arab Emirates. (Eleanor Valeros)