Gov’t to replace 148K vax doses lost in Zambo Sur fire

By Lade Jean Kabagani

November 2, 2021, 2:39 pm

<p><strong>UP IN SMOKE.</strong> Fire hits the Provincial Health Office of Zamboanga del Sur in Pagadian City on Sunday night (Oct. 31, 2021). The National Task Force Against Covid-19 and other concerned agencies said they will replace the 148,678 doses of Covid-19 vaccines destroyed.<em> (Photo courtesy of Victory Zamboanga del Sur)</em></p>

UP IN SMOKE. Fire hits the Provincial Health Office of Zamboanga del Sur in Pagadian City on Sunday night (Oct. 31, 2021). The National Task Force Against Covid-19 and other concerned agencies said they will replace the 148,678 doses of Covid-19 vaccines destroyed. (Photo courtesy of Victory Zamboanga del Sur)

MANILA – The government will replenish the 148,678 doses of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines that were destroyed in a fire that hit the Provincial Health Office of Zamboanga del Sur on Sunday night.

In a joint statement issued Monday, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19, National Vaccination Operations Centers (NVOC), and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said they are closely monitoring the investigation.

"We are saddened that 148,678 doses of Covid-19 vaccines were damaged during the fire that broke out at the Provincial Health Office of Zamboanga del Sur on the evening of October 31," it read.

All concerned agencies are on standby to provide immediate support to the Regional and Local Vaccination Operations Centers in the Zamboanga Peninsula, it added.

"May this unfortunate incident be a reminder to all local government units to ensure the safety and security of these life-saving vaccines," it said.

Responders are retrieving vaccines that may still be useful and other items like refrigerators, vaccine carriers, and transport boxes.

The administration of jabs at the provincial and municipal levels is also rescheduled.

"We would like to assure the residents of Zamboanga del Sur that the NTF and NVOC will replenish all the damaged vaccines, especially those meant for citizens who are scheduled to get their second dose soon. The vaccine doses will be shipped immediately as soon as the new cold storage is ready for use," the statement said.

In an interview at the Laging Handa press briefing also on Monday, NVOC chair and DOH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje, said they will also probe why the vaccines were still unused, a probable violation of a DILG order that all local government units (LGUs) must deploy and administer the jabs three days after receiving the supplies from the national government.

"We will look into that and then see who are accountable," Cabotaje said.

She said the regional office is already implementing its backup plan.

"We are looking at how we will stock our cold chain equipment, if there are additional refrigerators that can be repositioned, additional freezers, and ultra-refrigerators," she added.

Based on the NTF's initial report, the fire in Pagadian City destroyed 9,176 doses of AstraZeneca allocated as second shots, 14,400 Moderna to be used for pediatric vaccination, 88,938 Pfizer-BioNTech jabs, and 36,164 Sinovac vaccines, and those for routine immunization vaccines.

The DILG and DOH called on LGUs anew to make sure their respective vaccine safety offices would "report 24/7 in all Covid-19 cold chain facilities and warehouses".

"An intensified monitoring mechanism will be put in place to ensure that vaccines deployed from the national warehouse will be immediately distributed to implementing units across provinces, cities, and municipalities," the statement added.

Red Cross

Meanwhile, Dr. Reynaldo Ortiz, Philippine Red Cross (PRC)-Zamboanga del Sur-Pagadian City chapter administrator, expressed fear of a possible shortage of blood supply in this province and parts of Lanao del Norte due to the fire.

Ortiz said they have temporarily ceased operation following Sunday's blaze, and could not process their blood stocks until the extent of the fire's damage is assessed.

Ortiz said although the on-duty personnel managed to extract the stocks of blood, both processed and unprocessed, during the fire, these are only good for a week's supply.

Ortiz said the stocks of blood have already been deposited in different hospitals with cold storage facilities.

“Some items were either damaged due to heat exposure especially those with plastic parts and its wirings but all in all the bulk of the machines were okay but still needs to be checked,” he said after initially inspecting the laboratory equipment.

“We cannot check the machines as of now or in the next few days with the damaged wirings inside the building, they were all cut off and needed rewiring,” he added.

The PRC-Zamboanga del Sur-Pagadian City is one of the two accredited blood processing centers in the region. The other one is the PRC-Zamboanga City chapter.

Authorities said the fire broke out around 11:40 p.m. Sunday at the Blue Building of the Provincial Government Center in Barangay Dao, Pagadian City. It started at the maintenance department of the Zamboanga del Sur Medical Center.

The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) estimated the damage to properties at PHP1.5 million. They declared fire out at around 1:36 a.m. Monday.

Sad news

Malacañang is saddened by the loss of some 148,678 Covid-19 vaccines in a fire in Zamboanga del Sur.

“Malungkot nga po ‘tong balitang ito dahil ang nasunog po talaga ay yung regional [Department of Health] office (This is sad news because what was destroyed in the fire was a regional DOH office),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

“Ito po talaga ay nangyayari. Hindi po talaga natin ninais na magkaroon ng ganyang sunog. (These incidents really happen. Nobody wanted a fire to happen),” he added.

He also assured stocks will be replenished as soon as possible “because supply is no longer a problem.”

Earlier, National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said the country has sufficient Covid-19 vaccine supply as authorities kick-off an expanded immunization program to include minors aged 12 to 17.

The DILG has tapped the Philippine National Police and the BFP and its regional offices to ensure a speedy investigation.

The DILG will also issue a show cause order to the provincial government of Zamboanga del Sur for its failure to deliver the vaccines three days after the receipt of the supplies.

Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said his office will look into the circumstances and whether an investigation is warranted.

"We’ll wait for the initial assessment of the BFP. If there are any indications of foul play, I will request the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) regional office to step in," Guevarra told the media via text message.

To avoid similar incidents happening in the future, the DILG and DOH reiterated that all LGUs at the municipal, city, and provincial levels must ensure that their safety officers are reporting 24/7 in all Covid-19 cold chain facilities and warehouses.

"An intensified monitoring mechanism will be put in place to ensure that vaccines deployed from the national warehouse will be immediately distributed to implementing units across provinces, cities and municipalities," the NTF said, citing a DILG memorandum on Oct. 19. (with reports from Leah Agonoy, Ma. Teresa Montemayor, Azer N. Parrocha, Benjamin Pulta/PNA)

 

 

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