Buying vaccine not enough: Ex-health chief stresses importance of vaccination program


Posted at Jan 05 2021 11:15 AM

Medical staff member receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, US, Dec. 15, 2020. Marco Bello, Reuters/File

MANILA - More than purchasing vaccines, a proper vaccination program is needed to ensure effectivity of the drug, a former health secretary said Tuesday, as the government plans the rollout of the massive immunization program against COVID-19.

"First of all, I'd like to make a statement that it's not the vaccine that saves lives, it's the vaccination program," Dr. Paulyn Ubial told ANC.

"It's a whole lot of other things aside from the vaccine itself that has to work in unison, in consonance with each other so that we get people vaccinated."

Ubial, who now leads the molecular laboratory of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), stressed it was important for health authorities to identify which vaccine should be used in the program.

"Number 2 is to educate the people so they are not afraid and we address the issue of vaccine hesitancy, which is really a major issue in this country," she said.

The public health expert also noted that those who would handle the logistics of the COVID-19 vaccine such as cold chain would already be prepared.

Ubial said the PRC was working with the Department of Health (DOH) to assist the rolling out of the vaccines to stem the virus, which has infected over 478,000 people in the country.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said the country may start inoculating Filipinos in March.

The government is hoping to vaccinate at least 60 percent of the country's population to achieve herd immunity from COVID-19.

Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Davao City, Cebu City, and Cagayan de Oro City will be among the focus areas for the immunization program, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. had said.

Baguio City, Bacolod City, Iloilo City, Zamboanga City, Tacloban City, and General Santos City are also among the priority areas for the vaccine, he added.

Local government units are preparing their respective budgets to purchase vaccines while the national government has yet to finalize details of the vaccination program.