GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The city council will conduct an inquiry over the limited capacity of the local government’s cold chain facility to handle coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines that require lower storage temperature, five months into the vaccination rollout.
City Councilor Franklin Gacal Jr., chair of the council’s finance committee, disclosed the move on Monday as he lamented the city’s continuing lack of refrigeration facilities that could accommodate vaccines like Pfizer-BioNTech and Russia’s Sputnik V despite earlier getting a PHP30 million allocation for it.
He said such appropriation was included in the city’s supplemental budget number 01 approved last February.
Representatives from the City Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases confirmed during budget deliberation that it would acquire the necessary cold storage facilities in preparation for the mass vaccination, he said.
“When we approved that, the distribution of the vaccines to the LGUs (local government units) has not even started. But until now the freezers are not yet here,” he said in an interview over 98.3 Home Radio FM.
Gacal said they will invite concerned city department heads to shed light on the matter in their regular session on Wednesday.
When the national government received the initial supplies of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines last month, the City Health Office admitted that its cold chain facility lacks the capacity to accommodate them.
Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be stored in ultra-cold freezers with temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius or below.
Last week, the Department of Health-Region 12 received some 2,400 doses of Sputnik V, which has a storage requirement of -18 degrees Celsius.
Gacal said it is important for the city to immediately address the problem of the cold chain requirement so it can accept more vaccines from the national government.
He said it’s difficult to accept that the Pfizer and Sputnik V vaccines are already available but the city could not get them.
These vaccines are reportedly rated higher in terms of efficacy against the dreaded Covid-19 Delta variant compared to Sinovac’s CoronaVac, he said.
DOH-12 has only delivered CoronaVac and AstraZeneca vaccines since the inoculation activities in the area started last March.
“We need to make a move now to further fast track our vaccination rollout, which is quite slow when compared to other areas,” he said.
As of July 16, the city government has already administered a total of 44,025 doses of Covid-19 vaccines, comprising 31,544 persons inoculated with the first dose and 12,481 with complete two doses.
The ongoing vaccination covers eligible individuals under priority groups A1 (front-line health care workers), A2 (senior citizens), A3 (persons with comorbidities), and A4 (essential workers). (PNA)