MANILA— The Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday urged localities to tap their regional offices in addressing an apparent shortage in syringe meant for COVID-19 vaccinations, as some local governments reported the problem.
The agency said local government units (LGU) should reach out to their regional offices so syringes for mRNA vaccines could be distributed or bought, as some of the agency's funds are lodged there.
The 0.3ml syringe is specifically used to administer mRNA-type vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 shots.
Earlier this week, the health department said it has procured 44 million of such syringes from UNICEF, which had stockpiled the specific type. The delivery, however, has been delayed.
"As early as June, nung nakita po natin na magkakaroon tayo ng kakulangan sa syringes na ginagamit for mRNA vaccines, tayo ay nakapagbaba na ng memo sa regional office that they can use their funds, nakita natin na ang pondo natin ay malaki pa rin," Vergeire said in a public briefing.
(When we saw that there would be a vaccine shortage being used for mRNA vaccines, we already handed down our memo to our regional offices so they can use their funds. Our funds there are still big.)
"We are procuring an alternative sa auto-disable syringe ng mRNA vaccine, ito pong tuberculin syringes ang binibili po ng regional offices natin (our regional offices buy tuberculin syringes)," she added.
Tuberculin syringes are small 1ml syringes normally used to administer tuberculosis tests.
LGUs, however, need to coordinate with their offices so they could have this alternative type of syringe for mRNA COVID-19 vaccinations.
In the same briefing, the head of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) said some syringes that the Bicol region ordered were not delivered on time, a reason why they faced hurdles in their inoculation program.
ULAP president and Quirino Gov. Dax Cua said they should be informed in advance if the delivery of syringes would be delayed so they could address it immediately.
"Na-deliver ata ang bakuna, hindi naman na-deliver ang syringe. At hindi naman naabisuhan in advance so siguro ang susi talaga diyan ay closer coordination between the LGU and DOH," Cua explained.
(The vaccines were delivered but the syringes were not. We were not advised in advance regarding that so the key to that, I guess, is the closer coordination between the LGU and the DOH)
"Kung masabihan kami ng maaga, pwede naman kami mag-procure, pero siyempre kung hindi namin alam at hindi mapaghandaan din, wala po talagang syringe na maibabagay sa bakuna," he added.
(If we were informed in advance, we can buy it. But if we don't know anything about it then our vaccines won't have any syringe to pair with.)
The local official also urged local governments to have a stockpile of syringe supply at hand so their COVID-19 vaccinations could continue.
On Friday, the DOH said it already bought 44 million 0.3ml syringes from UNICEF.
UNICEF began delivering supplies of syringes "to low- and lower-middle income countries in behalf of the COVAX facility" as early as February 2021.
The Philippines is ramping up its COVID-19 vaccination to cover at least 54 million fully vaccinated Filipinos by yearend.
To reach this, the government already expanded its vaccination to teens aged 12 to 17 and had already planned to mount a 3-day vaccination drive from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1.
Authorities also aim to administer at least 1.5 million daily COVID-19 jabs.
The country has so far fully vaccinated at least 30.8 million individuals as of Thursday, accounting for 40 percent of the target 77.1 million.
— With a report from Wena Cos, ABS-CBN News
Video from PTV