Albay vaccination gets boost; Salceda thanks PRRD, DOH

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda has thanked Malacañang and the Department of Health (DOH) for their prompt response to his earlier appeal for more vaccine doses allocation to the regions, particularly Bicol.

Salceda who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said the vaccination roll-out in his province could could accelerate with the DOH’s recent commitment to deliver more Covid-19 vaccines doses to Albay.

The DOH commitment is contained in a July 26 letter in response to Salceda’s request to President Duterte for more vaccines for Albay which has cold storage facilities and the capability to store and administer them to attain herd immunity.

Salceda said the DOH, in a letter signed by Health Undersecretary Myrna C. Cabotaje, promised to deliver 187,982 vaccine doses from July onward, 108,292 doses of which are Sinovac; 50,600, Johnson and Johnson; and 29,090 Astra Zeneca – “enough to vaccinate an additional 15% of our population a first dose.”

He stressed that since they want to achieve herd immunity within the year, “we hope to be able to receive more commitments by August and September.”

Salceda earlier wrote Duterte and the IATF National Task Force (NTF) and assured them his district alone is capable of storing and administering about 190,200 doses of Pfizer or 312,000 doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

The cold storage facilities are located in Legazpi City, Daraga, and Camalig, all in the second district of the province. Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines need ultra-low temperature during storage.

The DOH lauded Salceda for helping Albay achieve 96,633 first and second doses as of July 26 and promised the province “shall be receiving allocations accordingly from the arriving vaccines this month of July onwards.”

The Albay lawmaker had earlier voiced his appeal for an equitable vaccine distribution in Bicol and the Bangsamoro regions, noting that the process has been “grossly unequal,” leaving these areas “far behind”  in the vaccination program.

He pointed out that healthcare facilities and capability are seriously “segmented in the regions,” thus the need to vaccinate the vulnerable to avoid hospitalization.

“Vaccination is very crucial for our provinces, especially for regions as geographically dispersed or expansive as Bicol. While it’s easier for one from Caloocan to seek medical attention in Muntinlupa, it is virtually impossible in Bicol, if say residents from Catanduanes or Masbate have to go to Camarines Norte for a similar purpose,” he explained.

Citing available data, Salceda said the National Capital Region has among the highest share of vaccinated residents, at around 26.5% as of July 4, while at the bottom of the list are Region 5 (Bicol) where only 2.73% of its population got vaccinated, and further down is the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao where only 1.52% of its people got vaccinated.

“The point of the vaccine is to prevent hospitalizations. So, you have to bring it to places where hospitalization is a very difficult option. I understand that we are giving large doses of vaccines to centers of economic activities, such as NCR, but the disparities are just too huge,” he noted.