Tala Hospital expects delivery of close to 800 vials of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday

Angel Movido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 11 2021 05:34 PM

MANILA — The Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital (DJNRMH) or Tala Hospital in Caloocan City expects the delivery on Sunday of around 800 vials of COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer, its chief said Thursday.

“Tentative, possible arrival is Sunday. ‘Yung time, wala pang binibigay sa amin na estimated time of arrival,” Dr. Fritz Famaran told ABS-CBN News.

(The tentative, possible arrival is Sunday. We were not yet given the estimated time of arrival.)

"Ang (The) first and second dose can be handled by the ultra low freezer of the hospital. Isang bagsakan lang ito (This will be a one-time delivery),” he added.

The DJNRMH is among four hospitals, all in Metro Manila, whose staff will be prioritized in the distribution of COVID-19 shots upon arrival. The three others are the Philippine General Hospital in Manila City, and the Lung Center of the Philippines and East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City.

Officials earlier have estimated the delivery in the country of COVID-19 vaccine supplies from the COVAX facility, which include those from Pfizer, in the second or third week of the month.

On Thursday, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque told a news briefing that there is no tentative arrival date yet for the first batch of 117,000 Pfizer shots from the COVAX Facility.

"Inaasahan po natin, hindi matatapos ang buwan ng Pebrero at darating din ang paunang shipment galing sa COVAX Facility," he said. 

(We expect that February will not end without an initial shipment from the COVAX Facility.)

Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine has been granted emergency use authority in the Philippines by the Food and Drug Administration.

A vial of it is good for 5 individuals, each with a single dose, according to Famaran.

“One vial, idi-dilute mo yun. Kukunin mo dun is .3 ml. So, that's .3 (ml) times 5," he explained.

(You first dilute. Then, you extract .3 ml for each dose.)

TALA HOSPITAL’S COLD CHAIN FACILITY PREPS

According to Felina Jane Barongan, officer-in-charge of the hospital's pharmacy, maintaining the hospital’s cold chain is critical for Pfizer’s vaccines.

Pfizer's vaccine, which uses new messenger RNA-based technology, has to be kept in a -70 degrees Celsius freezer, unlike the other COVID-19 vaccines. It has the highest efficacy rate at 95 percent, based on current data.

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Barongan said the hospital’s ultra-low freezer has been set to -70 degrees Celsius earlier this week in preparation for the vaccines’ arrival.

“Nag-set na tayo rito ng -70 (degrees Celsius). Pagkatumaas ‘yong temperatura, nag-aalarm yung freezer, audible alarm na maririnig sa buong pharmacy,” she said.

(We already set the temperature to -70 degrees Celsius. Once the temperature rises, the freezer will sound an alarm that can be heard in the entire pharmacy.)

Preparing the vaccines includes the thawing process of the vials that can last 3 to 4 hours inside a refrigerator with a temperature of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. Afterwards, the vials will need an additional 30 minutes under room temperature before the actual administration of the vaccine, she explained. 

Once taken out of the refrigerator, Pfizer’s vaccines should be opened within 2 hours. And once diluted, the vaccine should be administered to an individual within 6 hours. 

“Kung ano lang yung kailangan, yun lang ang ilalabas sa freezer,” she pointed out.

(We will only get from the freezer the exact number of vaccines we will need.)

“Yung vaccine na ito is different from other vaccines. Para ma-maintain natin yung integrity and efficacy of the vaccine, kailangan natin siya ihiwalay sa iba, kasi hindi tayo basta-basta. Kumbaga, masuwerte kami, nabigyan kami ng mga vaccines na ito,” she said.

(To maintain the integrity and efficacy of the vaccine, we need to separate it from the others... We are lucky to be receiving these vaccines.) 

On Thursday, a total of 1,600 employees have already registered in their vaccine masterlist, of whom, 86 percent said they agreed to recieve the shots, according to Famaran. 

The hospital chief said the reason for some hesitancy by some employees stem from the supposed side effects of the vaccines, and no longer about the brand. 

“Kahit na Pfizer, kasi 'di ba, may mga media news na sabi gumamit ng Pfizer, medyo hindi maganda, unverified yung kanilang reports pertaining to the side effects of the vaccine,” he said.

Famaran said he has allotted slots for those who might change their mind at the last minute.

He also has yet to see reports on employees who might have allergic reactions to the vaccine.

Five staff of the hospital are currently confined in the facility due to COVID-19. Famaran said they contracted the disease outside of the hospital

The Philippines expects the initial batch of 600,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots from China's Sinovac Biotech to arrive on Feb. 23, Roque said earlier in the day.

The country will get some 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX Facility in the first quarter, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. had said.