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Vaccine delivery, storage discussed

An aerial view of the spruced up Bacolod public plaza, in this photo released by the City PIO Saturday*

Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia, national president of the League of Cities of the Philippines, led an online meeting with the mayors of 26 cities, who succeeded in contracting for a supply of AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccines.

The main agenda of the meeting was to coordinate with AZ company representatives, led by Victor Sepulveda, head of AZ’s Retail, Patient Access and Government Affairs Division, to ensure that these vaccines are delivered safely and undamaged to the cities that ordered them, especially considering its limited supply, a press release from the city said.

Logistical preparations for the storage of these vaccines were also discussed to ensure that quality is preserved before use.

The AZ vaccines are expected to arrive starting July this year.

The LCP and Sepulveda’s team have been meeting on this vaccine availment as early as January 4, 2021 yet.

“While most were still celebrating the New Year, we were already in meetings with various vaccine companies. AstraZeneca was the first vaccine company that the LCP Vaccine Availment Committee met. At a time when many questions were still being asked about the status of vaccine supply and logistics, we were already one step ahead,” Leonardia said.

In January, 39 LGUs, 26 of them cities, signed up with the “A Dose of Hope” program, a public-private initiative for the donation and procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

“Because of their dense populations, cities are natural epicenters of Covid-19, thus the LCP actively joined in the ‘A Dose of Hope’ program so we can be assured of our own contracted supply of the vaccines in addition to what the national government can provide us.  It would be excruciating to wait in line for our share in what the national government can procure. In the meantime, a good number of our people could already be casualties of this virus.  I refuse to accept that nightmare for our people,” Leonardia said.

Sepulveda said private sector companies that have signed up for the procurement of AZ vaccines in November 2020 will receive the first tranche of vaccines this June.

“But by July, hopefully, with best efforts, all the 39 LGUs that have contracts with AZ will receive their share in the subsequent supply tranches,” Sepulveda said.

The city mayors attending the online meeting Thursday emphasized to Sepulveda that to be fair, the percentage of sharing among the 39 LGUs concerned in every shipment intended for them should be proportionate to the volume that each LGU purchased, against the total quantity ordered by these LGUs.

“Bacolod City has ordered 650,000 doses of the AZ vaccines. We are fifth behind Davao City, Quezon City, Makati City, and the City of Manila in terms of the quantity purchased. That means our share in every shipment should also be substantial enough to start our rollout by July”, Leonardia said.

Sepulveda also discussed the framework of Multilateral Agreement/Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), the survey of Current Logistics of AstraZeneca vaccines, and Quality Logistics Requirements under EUA.

He told the attendees that AZ will only import the vaccines but logistics for physical delivery to the 39 LGUs will be at the option of the LGUs.

Janette Jakosalem, representing a logistics firm that offers pharmaceutical distribution services, presented their cold chain storage systems and digitalized vaccination process flow.

In the meeting, Mayor Benjamin Magalong of Baguio City sought clarification on the previous statement of National Task Force chair and vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez, that the national government will cover the logistics cost of vaccine handling.

“If I remember during our meeting with Secretary Galvez sometime in January, he mentioned that the national government will cover the logistics cost as its contribution, considering that the LGU already took the initiative to cover the cost of vaccines,” Magalong said.

Leonardia said he will ask the commitment of the Office of Secretary Galvez or the Department of Health to provide support for the proper handling and delivery of supplies.

It was agreed that the LCP will write the DOH to secure its commitment to shoulder the cost of the logistics and the prompt delivery of the vaccines because time is of the essence.

Leonardia said he is inclined to believe that the DOH will keep its promise, only that he wants to make sure that the vaccines will be delivered on time.

National Task Force Against Covid-19 director, Carissa Cruz, who represented Galvez in the meeting, expressed their appreciation for the “incessant support” of every stakeholder to the national government in the fight against the dreaded virus.

Cruz also commended the coordination and cooperation among local chief executives and stakeholders.

The virtual meeting ended up with some 90 people in attendance because the city mayors also brought some of their staff to attend. Among the attendees were Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, who chairs the LCP Committee on Vaccine Availment; Manila City Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, Vigan City Mayor Juan Carlo Medina, Oroquieta City Mayor Lemuel Meyrick Acosta, LCP executive director Veronica Hitosis, McBy Dandan, Raymond Villaroman, and Dr. Cyril Tolosa—all of AstraZeneca, and other city mayors who had inked contracts with AZ.*

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