Two committee hearings are scheduled next week after the 19th City Council passed on first reading the ordinance for the implementation of the COVID-19 immunization program of Davao City on Tuesday, January 5.

Davao City Councilor Joselle Villafuerte, Committee on Health chairperson, bared this during the COVID-19 Alert program aired via Davao City Disaster Radio yesterday, January 6.

She said, “We are scheduling the committee hearings on January 11 and 14. The public can ask questions as it will be broadcast live via FB (Facebook).” 

The committee hearings, according to her, will be made transparent to the public to help allay their fears on the vaccine when they hear relevant information from the experts.

The City Health Office (CHO), Department of Health (DOH), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be invited to the committee hearings along with experts on vaccinology, infectious diseases consultants, business leaders, civil society groups, indigenous people (IP) leaders, among others. 

“Lahat may boses (Everybody will have a voice),” Villafuerte said, adding that although no COVID-19 vaccine has been approved yet in the country, they have already been monitoring other countries rolling out the vaccination.

She expects the Senate will soon be discussing the COVID-19 vaccine since Senate Committee on Finance chair Sonny Angara already identified the COVID-19 brands including AstraZeneca, Novavax, Pfizer, Moderna, Sinovac, Gamaleya, and Covax.

But only Pfizer has so far applied for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of its product in the Philippines.

Villafuerte said, “The reason for this (ordinance) passing is for us to be ready. Tanan ni ginahisgutan na sa national (This is being discussed at the national level). We should, at the local level, prepare for the arrival of the different vaccines kung unsa man vaccine na ma approve (whatever vaccine will be approved).”

The third district councilor explained that rolling out the COVID-19 vaccination program would undergo different phases. Thus, the need to list down how many vaccines to be procured and how much should be allocated for it as the city government needs to augment the vaccines that will come from the national government.

“We can’t determine the budget for the vaccines now as it would depend on the cost of the approved vaccine that we will be able to purchase through the Department of Health (DOH),” she said, considering that manufacturers only want to negotiate with the national government through the DOH so LGUs cannot directly purchase COVID-19 vaccines from the manufacturers.

Mayor Inday Sara Duterte also mentioned this in her DCDR program on January 4, saying that the city has written vaccine makers, including Pfizer, for direct access to buy the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Unfortunately though, Pfizer and another manufacturer replied that they would only negotiate with DOH. Duterte said they are awaiting the reply of two or three more vaccine developers.

Meanwhile, Villafuerte said the storage of the vaccines, facilities needed for it, who will store it, the sufficiency of health care workers to implement the vaccination, and their training will also have to be discussed 

She added, “These are only parts of the things we need to prepare for that’s why we need an ordinance.

As we know if we pass a law, naa jud nay budget. Mag-allocate pud ta og budget for this very important vaccination against COVID-19. I’m sure we will be very transparent about this.”

She also said there are certain provisions for preparation, such as creating a task force to solely focus on which vaccine to use in the city, and forming a committee that will cater to adverse effects of the vaccines or receive reports of its side effects.

“We will use the vaccine with the highest efficacy and safety then we will put people at ease. Kinahanglan lang jud tama ang information na mugawas and magtinabangay mi sa (It’s important that right information is disseminated and we will work together with the) City Health Office and district health and barangay health officials. This will be community-based. Naghulat nalang mi (We’re just waiting for) additional guidelines from DOH being the lead national agency,” Villafuerte added.

However, Davao City Health Covid-19 focal person Dr. Ashley G. Lopez said that being a highly-urbanized city with about 2 million population, it would take at least one to two years to complete the phases of the COVID-19 immunization program.

“We are still waiting for the guidelines from the COVID national task force and DOH. It’s good to hear that Davao City will be having a preparation, particularly on the development of the proposed ordinance. So when the time comes, dili na ta magkapa-kapa (we won’t be caught off guard), including the workforce and process to be done for the immunization process,” Lopez said. CIO