First off, no vaccines for COVID have arrived yet, whether from the deals made with the manufacturers by the national government, nor by similar deals with the LGU or the private sector. For now, the best that can be done is to prepare communities for the act of mass vaccination, holding simulations in transporting and storing the vaccines, the health workers learning the different methods of handling each unique vaccine brand, and the population learning how to get their shots. Then, even when the vaccines arrive, it is the health workers and front-liners that will get stuck first, and SOCCSKSARGEN actually has lots of them.
The Philippine News Agency has it that the priority group for getting COVID-19 vaccines first in Region 12 – SOCCSKSARGEN, namely the medical front-liners in the area, comprises up to 55,000 people. This was revealed Thursday, February 18, by the Department of Health (DOH-XII) immunization manager Dr. Edvir Jane Montañer, during a media forum. That is a lot of people, and there is a chance that any first batch of vaccines will be used up with them (via double-dose). But Dr. Montañer explains it is necessary to focus vaccination on health workers first so that local health systems remain actively operational even during the ongoing pandemic.
It should be recalled that Region 12 currently consists of four provinces and four cities (three component-cities of Cotabato, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces, and independent highly-urbanized GenSan). The presence of cities alone means it is vital that “essential and critical” health care services can be delivered without worrying over COVID considerations. That might only be realized if the medical workers involved have been vaccinated: both health professionals and support staffers of hospitals, clinics, health centers and similar facilities.
Of course, first the priority health workers for early vaccination when available must be identified and confirmed, a task that falls to the LGUs of province, city, municipality and barangay in SOCCSKSARGEN. After which, depending on the spread of these health workers, suitable locations for COVID vaccine storage and vaccination hubs must be determined. Dr. Montañer reiterates the earlier DOH target that 60-70 percent of a give population must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity against COVD-19. Another challenge she notes is the rising sentiment of many people hesitating to sign up for vaccination or distrust the process, whether due to reports of adverse reactions overseas or lack of confidence.
Image courtesy of SUNSTAR