GLIMMER OF HOPE. Some 7,200 doses of CoronaVac vaccines are being unloaded from a reefer van en route to the cold storage facility of Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC), after its arrival at the Mactan Cebu International Airport from Manila on Tuesday (March 2, 2021). On Thursday, some officials and healthcare workers of VSMMC will get the first shots of the CoronaVac developed by Sinovac Biotech in China. (Screengrab from OPAV video)

CEBU CITY – The arrival of 7,200 doses of CoronaVac here on Tuesday has given Cebuanos hope that the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic will end soon, a health official said.

The first shipment of Covid-19 vaccines made by Sinovac Biotech in China arrived at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport at 7:40 a.m. on board the Philippine Airlines Flight PR 1854 from Manila.

Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, DOH-7 chief pathologist and Covid-19 spokesperson, said the arrival of the vaccines will help expedite the reopening of the economy.

“The arrival of the vaccines has really given us a glimmer hope in our fight against Covid-19,” she said.

Loreche said they are expecting another batch of around 7,800 doses of vaccines on March 8. She did not mention whether the next batch would be the same brand from China.

The doses of CoronaVac for Cebu were part of the 600,000 doses donated by the Chinese government to the Philippines that arrived on Feb. 28.

The national government included Cebu in the list of priority areas for its Covid-19 vaccination program.

The vaccines are now kept at the cold storage facility of the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC).

“The arrival to unloading and endorsement of the vaccines to VSMMC was smooth and effortless,” Loreche said.

First shot volunteers

Meanwhile, Loreche said she will join four officials who volunteered to lead the ceremonial vaccination using the CoronaVac along with the 768 healthcare workers (HCWs) at the VSMMC on March 4.

Apart from Loreche, DOH-7 regional director Dr. Jaime Bernadas, VSMMC hospital director Dr. Gerardo Aquino Jr. and DOH-7 Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit chief Dr. Junjie Zuasula also volunteered to join the inoculation.

Retired Maj. Gen. Melquiades Feliciano, Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) deputy chief implementer, also volunteered to take the first shot of the vaccine.

Loreche said they decided to lead other front-liners in the ceremonial inoculation on Thursday to encourage other healthcare workers (HCWs) at the VSMMC to take the first shots of CoronaVac.

Last month, at least 2,900 HCWs from VSMMC gave their consent to be inoculated with CoronaVac but the number went down to 768 as some of them wanted to be inoculated with other vaccine brands.

Aquino said he is optimistic that more HCWs of the DOH-run regional hospital will get the first shot of the vaccine.

A message from Aquino’s office sent to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) said preparations for the March 4 ceremonial inoculation are ongoing.

Renewed business confidence

Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Steven Yu said the vaccine arrival has given renewed confidence to the business community in Cebu.

“The arrival of the vaccines has very significant impact to the Cebu business community. It is not just a sigh of relief but a light in the darkness,” Yu told the PNA in an interview also on Tuesday.

Yu is optimistic that the start of the vaccine rollout “signals the beginning of the end of the pandemic.”

“We are very grateful to President Duterte and his administration for going the extra, extra mile to get the vaccine despite very limited supply. This renewed hope and confidence will inspire the business community to hold on, and work harder to help in the economic recovery of our country,” he said.

Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Felix Taguiam echoed Yu’s optimistic view, saying the vaccine arrival brings relief to businessmen.

“Vaccines are starting to arrive. I'm sure more will come in the following days. Any brand is better than no vaccine. Let's get everyone to understand that being vaccinated is the only way we can all move forward,” he said. (PNA)