Right now, it seems the only relief people will get from constantly worrying about the COVID-19 pandemic is if the vaccines will already come. Pharmaceutical researchers have made several of them; they had been tested and made available; and countries outside the Philippines have already been using them. Here in the country, communities wait for the vaccines to arrive, purchased either by the national government, the LGUs or private sector. Davao City is supposed to get their first batch this Friday, and to prepare for that they have done a simulation exercise this past Wednesday to check their system’s preparedness.

The Mindanao Times has it that in a post assessment of the vaccine simulation run that was done In Davao City on February 10 the exercise was successful, according to the city COVID-10 Task Force focal person, Dr. Ashley Lopez. Then again, that assessment would only cover the logistics element of quickly delivering loads of vaccines from storage hubs to on-site vaccination locations. It does not include whether there are specials facilities in Davao that could store certain COVID vaccines in the necessary cold temperatures.

Dr. Lopez of course refers to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine “Comirnaty,” which require extreme cold storage of –70°C. That means 70 degrees below zero Celsius (freezing point). To compare, the other FDA-approved (emergency) vaccine from AstraZeneca needs only to be kept between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, just above freezing. Lopez notes that at least the latter vaccine will have plenty of good cold storage available in any Davao City health center that has one. Of course, these same cold storage facilities have other uses aside from keeping vaccines, even those from the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), which is serving as a vaccine hub.

“If the Pfizer vaccine arrives on February 12, we have no storage for that in SPMC,” notes Dr. Lopez. “That is why the city government of Davao through the approval of Mayor Sara Duterte, will request permission to borrow the ultra-low freezer from Los Amigos Molecular that can accommodate up to negative 80 degrees Celsius.

The aforementioned Davao City COVID vaccine medical simulation was a coordinated affair between various agencies in the community, including the regional offices of the DOH, DILG and SPMC. The simulated time was clocked at 35 minutes, from unloading vaccines at aircraft in the airport to waiting transport vans, up until arriving at the SPMC facilities.

Image from Philippine Information Agency

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