CEBU CITY (UPDATE) - Dr. Gerardo Aquino, Jr., head of Central Visayas’ regional hospital, the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, received Thursday the first COVID-19 vaccine administered outside of Luzon as the Philippines continued its inoculation drive against the coronavirus.
Last Monday, another Gerardo became the symbol of the country's fight against COVID-19 as the Philippines' vaccine rollout officially began. Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, director of the Philippine General Hospital, was the first authorized recipient of the vaccine against the coronavirus.
“I did not feel a thing, except for a little pain from the injection,” said Aquino, 56, medical director of Cebu City-based VSMMC since 2006, after receiving the first dose of CoronaVac, the vaccine developed by Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech. The Philippines received 600,000 doses of the product donated by China, last Sunday.
Incidentally, another namesake, Dr. Gerardo Bayugo, Undersecretary of the Department of Health, administered Aquino's vaccine shot.
Aquino, a former chief of the Eversley Childs Sanitarium and Hospital in Mandaue City, admitted he wanted to go first so that other workers in the hospital may follow suit.
“There are 1,245 who are on the list to get Sinovac,” he said. Originally, some 2,000 workers manifested to get vaccinated.
The number is expected to grow as the rollout continues, officials said.
"We know vaccine is very important in the prevention of this pandemic," he said.
“We hope that now they saw us take the vaccine, the health workers and the Cebuanos will now say that Sinovac is safe,” added DOH Region 7 spokesperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, who also received the shot.
Officials are targeting to finish the inoculation of health workers in the area in one week.
“About 400-500 could be accommodated in a day,” said Loreche.
According to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, 9,077 have so far been inoculated against COVID-19 in the country, as of 5 p.m. of March 3, since the official rollout began last Monday.
Cebu has been an area of concern during the pandemic, and is a pilot for the vaccinations with the looming increase of COVID-19 cases.
As of March 3, there are 6,657 actives COVID-19 cases in Central Visayas, a chunk of it coming from Cebu City.
Central Visayas is currently third in rank among regions in the country with the most number of cases, trailing Metro Manila and Calabarzon. As of March 3, the cumulative total cases in Region 7 stood at 41,273.
Apart from Aquino and Loreche, Maj. Gen. Melquiades Feliciano of the Inter-Agency Task Force Central Visayas, Dr. Juanito Tiu of St. Anthony Mother and Child Hospital, and Dr. Pythagoras Zerna of Eversley Childs Sanitarium and General Hospital were also inoculated with the Sinovac vaccine.
The Philippines aims to inoculate up to 70 million of the population to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus.
On Friday, COVID-19 vaccination is scheduled to kickoff in Mindanao, beginning in Davao City.
- report from Annie Perez