VIGAN CITY — Some health workers in frontline medical facilities in Ilocos Region have received their first doses of COVID-19 vaccines in a blitz of vaccination kickoffs that commenced immediately after the arrival of the first batch of China-donated vaccines at a Department of Health regional facility in La Union Thursday last week.
Vaccinating over five million residents of Ilocos Region is seen as key to opening the economy and returning to a “new normal” life.
On March 4, Thursday afternoon, the first batch of vaccines reached Region 1 with the arrival of 14,400 doses of Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac transported straight to the cold storage facility of the Department of Health CHD1 in San Fernando City, La Union.
From there, the vaccines were promptly distributed to other hospitals in the region.
The very first to get inoculated was Dr. Agnes Dimaano, 49 years old, resident of San Fabian, Pangasinan, and medical specialist at Department of Pediatrics in Region 1 Medical Center during a ceremony held at the said hospital Friday afternoon.
Meanwhile, 966 doses were delivered to the Ilocos Sur Provincial Hospital-Gabriela Silang (ISPH-GS) in Vigan City at around five in the afternoon, Friday. The vaccines were personally received by Gov. Ryan Singson, attended by Vice Gov. Jerry Singson, provincial board members, provincial administrator Cara Michelle Peredo, provincial health officer Dr. Carmeliza Singson, chief of ISPH and Ilocos Sur COVID-19 Action Team Incident commander Dr. Trina Tabboga-Talaga, DOH personnel, and other officials of the province. Dr. Talaga with Dr. Roland Zara, infectious diseases expert, were the first to be inoculated in Ilocos Sur.
While in Ilocos Norte, 2,446 doses of CoronaVac vaccines reached the Provincial Capitol Friday night with Gov. Matthew Marcos Manotoc witnessing the arrival. Vaccination of medical workers kicked off in simultaneous programs held the next day at Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center, Governor Roque B. Ablan Sr. Memorial Hospital, and Laoag City General Hospital.
The Philippine government’s campaign to inoculate at least 50 million Filipinos by end of 2021 officially began with the delivery of the first batch of 600,000 doses of CoronaVac donated by the government of China on February 28.
Another batch of 487,200 AstraZeneca vaccines provided by the COVAX facility were also delivered to the country last Thursday.
Health workers are among the priority groups identified to be vaccinated with CoronaVac despite initial concerns regarding its use for individuals exposed to COVID-19 patients. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that data from Phase 3 trials in Brazil indicated lower efficacy of 50.4%. The FDA recommends using CoronaVac only for clinically healthy individuals aged 18 to 59, as clinical trials in Indonesia and Turkey showed the vaccine is more effective on this age group.
But the country’s panel of vaccine experts eventually decided that health workers be given the chance to receive any available vaccine including CoronaVac due to the scarcity of vaccine supplies and uncertain delivery schedule of other brands.
The rollout of the vaccination campaign gathers pace as local governments start loosening travel and quarantine restrictions to encourage domestic travel for leisure to revive the heavily-hit travel and tourism sector and related industries in the region.
Gov. Singson encourages the public to get vaccinated when mass vaccination starts.
“Sa mga nagdadalawang-isip magpabakuna, I am asking you, magpabakuna na kayo. Again, an added protection is better than nothing. Ngayon, narito na ang mga bakuna, magtutuloy-tuloy ang ating laban kontra sa COVID-19. In a few months, mananalo at mananalo tayo against COVID-19,” he said.
Despite the arrival of vaccines, health officials still advise the public to continue observing health protocols as spikes in daily new cases have pushed total active cases in the country to 43,323 as of March 6. ●