PH RECEIVES CONFIRMATION OF COVAX PARTICIPATION; SOH, VACCINE CZAR INSPECT 3 COLD CHAIN FACILITIES IN PREPARATION FOR ROLLOUT

Joint Press Release | 20 January 2021

The Philippines today received the country’s confirmation of participation in the COVID-19 vaccine financing instrument, COVAX Facility - Advance Market Commitment (AMC). The COVAX Facility is a global procurement mechanism which invests in a broad portfolio of promising vaccine candidates to support their research, development, and manufacturing. With the country’s participation in the COVAX Facility, the country is set to receive vaccines in the first quarter of this year.

As part of the preparations for the COVID-19 vaccine deployment, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. today visited three cold storage facilities that can potentially be used in the first wave of COVID-19 vaccine roll-out. The inspection was carried out to ensure that the cold chain facilities will meet the storage requirement of vaccines prior to its distribution to identified vaccination sites. The cold chain facilities visited were the First Pioneer Distribution Center of UNILAB located in Biñan City, Laguna, the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City, and the Zuellig Pharma Corporation in Parañaque City.

According to UNILAB, their cold storage facility has a temperature range of +2 to +8 °C and can store a maximum of five million doses of vaccines. Meanwhile, Zuellig Pharma reported that its facilities can accommodate pharmaceutical products with temperature requirements ranging between -80°C to +25 °C. Zuellig further noted that its +2 to +8 °C cold rooms can store up to 629 million doses in various warehouses, its -15 to -25 °C walk-in freezers can hold up to 40 million doses, and its 14 ultra-cold freezers with -80 to -70 °C temperature range has the capacity to store up to 6.5 million doses.

“The vaccine cluster, on behalf of the government, is grateful to UNILAB and Zuellig Pharma for partnering with the government in further strengthening the country’s capacity to curb the pandemic. We also express our commitment to ensure continued support for RITM in its preparations to receive vaccines,” Sec. Galvez said.

RITM Director Dr. Celia Carlos revealed that RITM currently has four cold rooms with a +2 to +8 °C temperature range, one -20 °C walk-in freezer, and two borrowed ultra-low temperature freezers with a -70 to -80 °C temperature range. Presently, RITM commits its ultra-low temperature storage facility.

With this, Sec. Galvez recommended the constitution of another team at the RITM exclusively handling the COVID-19 vaccine deployment, adding that a separate team for EPI (Expanded Program of Immunization) vaccines is ideal for an uninterrupted focus and roll-out of both immunization programs.

Sec. Duque, on the other hand, noted that apart from cold chain facilities, the vaccine cluster is also in talks with third-party logistics providers to ensure efficiency of the entire supply chain management of COVID-19 vaccines, from the receipt of vaccines from the COVAX Facility to its deployment.

“All of these preparations that we are undertaking are aimed at ensuring that the country is ready to receive, store, and mobilize the COVID-19 vaccines that will come from the COVAX Facility. We extend our thanks to our partners for their continued support to improve our cold storage capacity. We cannot make this endeavor a success if the government and the private sector work in silos. Our response has always been a whole-of-government, whole-of-society, whole-of-system approach,” Sec. Duque said.