Damaged COVID-19 jabs in Zambo raises concerns on slow rollout in province

November 3, 2021 - 5:29 PM
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Vials labelled "COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine" are placed on dry ice in this illustration taken, December 4, 2020. Picture taken December 4, 2020. (Reuters/Dado Ruvic/File Photo)

The damaged COVID-19 vaccine doses during a fire in Zamboanga del Sur sparked concerns on the slow rollout out of jabs in the province.

The National Task Force Against COVID-19 on November 2 confirmed that 148,678 COVID-19 vaccine doses were affected by a fire that hit the Provincial Health Office of Zamboanga del Sur last Sunday, October 31.

NTF also added that other routine immunization vials were also ruined by the blaze.

The task force, along with other relevant government bodies, stated that they are closely monitoring the investigation of the incident.

These agencies are the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the National Vaccination Operations Centers (NVOC), and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“We are saddened that 148,678 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were damaged during the fire that broke out at the Provincial Health Office of Zamboanga del Sur on the evening of October 31,” their statement read.

The Zamboanga health office served as the main cold chain storage facility for COVID-19 jabs to be distributed to the province’s 26 municipalities.

The breakdown of the damaged jabs are:

  • 88,938 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech
  • 36,164 doses of Sinovac
  • 14,400 doses of Moderna
  • 9,176 doses of AstraZeneca

Some social media users decried the incident. They aired that the COVID-19 doses could have benefited many Filipinos in the southern province.

“These doses could vaccinate around 73-74k people, around 7.3% of Zamboanga del Sur’s population (1,010,000) or 35% of the provincial capital’s people (Pagadian City, population 210,000). Sayang. Set pa sana magvaccinate ang province ng 12-17 with comorbs tomorrow. Malabo pa ako mavax,” one Twitter user said.

Some users questioned why the vaccines were not yet distributed in the first place.

“Nakakadismaya bakit nagtatambak sa mga lugar na di naman kaya mag-ubusan ng bakuna. Careless pa. Sana unahin at ubusin na sa mga lugar na maraming eager at in demand na bakuna, yung mga pabebe hayaan na po muna. Samantalang NCR halos wala na bisa inactivated shield ng mga HCWs,” an online user said.

“Sayang talaga ang mga vaccines na yan. DILG will conduct an investigation bakit hindi pa naiturok agad ang mga yan. We need to move quickly and handle these vaccines well,” said Dr. Tony Leachon, former NTF consultant.

Data analyst Edson Guido shared a screenshot of the Philippines’ vaccination rate from the NVOC, as of November 2.

It showed that only the National Capital Region has so far inoculated 88% of its residents.

The Zamboanga Peninsula or Region IX, where Zamboanga del Sur is located, has only vaccinated 23.57% of its residents.

Gov’t response

NVOC chair Myrna Cabotaje, also a health undersecretary, said in a briefing last Monday that they will also verify why the COVID-19 vaccines were unused.

Cabotaje said this violates a DILG order on the immediate deployment of jabs once LGU received them.

“We will look into that and then see who are accountable,” she said.

NTF, meanwhile, assured the residents of Zamboanga that the damaged COVID-19 vaccines will immediately be replenished.

Local vaccinations will also be rescheduled.

“We would like to assure the residents of Zamboanga del Sur that the NTF and NVOC will replenish all the damaged vaccines, especially those meant for citizens who are scheduled to get their second dose soon. The vaccine doses will be shipped immediately as soon as the new cold storage is ready for use,” it said.