DOH eyes midwives, pharmacists as COVID-19 vaccinators

Shiela Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
DOH eyes midwives, pharmacists as COVID-19 vaccinators
At a press briefing yesterday, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they are inclined to seek the help of pharmacists and midwives in implementing the vaccination program against COVID-19. Teachers, however, are not likely to be tapped.
AFP / Kena Betancur

MANILA, Philippines — With 70 million Filipinos targeted for COVID-19 inoculation, the Department of Health (DOH) is out to tap pharmacists and midwives as vaccinators.

At a press briefing yesterday, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they are inclined to seek the help of pharmacists and midwives in implementing the vaccination program against COVID-19. Teachers, however, are not likely to be tapped.

Vergeire noted that if teachers would be mobilized, it would be for information dissemination and in engaging the community.

There are existing laws that allow pharmacists and midwives to do vaccination while there is none for teachers, according to the DOH official.

She was referring to Republic Act 10918 or the Pharmacy Act of 2016 and RA 7392 or the Philippine Midwifery Act of 1992.

“We are requiring a lot of health care workers for the vaccination, so we are looking at different health professionals such as pharmacists and midwives,” she said.

Vergeire, however, pointed out that the law provides that the pharmacists should be trained and certified by the DOH.

The official added that midwives, on the other hand, have long been performing vaccination.

The DOH is coordinating with the Professional Regulation Commission on the formulation of the accreditation process for certification.

“We are coordinating with them because we would want that it is not only the public midwives but also the private midwives. There are many midwives across the country, owning birthing clinics while others work in hospitals,” Vergeire said.  – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Neil Jayson Servallos, Mary Grace Padin, Robertzon Ramirez

Training of vaccinators

Sen. Richard Gordon is seeking to expand the country’s pool of vaccinators for the implementation of the government’s national program for immunization in times of epidemics, pandemics and national health emergencies such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since we have a limited number of doctors, nurses and midwives that will aid in the COVID-19 vaccination program, we filed a bill that expands the pool of vaccinators of the DOH by training other professionals such as dentists, veterinarians, medical technologists and even those without medical background to be vaccinators,” Gordon said.

Section 1 of Senate Bill 1987 states that non-medical practitioners that will be part of the training will be allowed, provided that they will be given the appropriate training, certification and authority by the DOH, and that they will perform their duties under the supervision of a duly registered physician and for a limited period only contingent upon the existence of the national health emergency for which it is called.

There are 617,239 health care workers from both public and private health institutions who will help in administering the COVID-19 vaccines, according to the DOH.

Early delivery

The Philippines is asking pharmaceutical companies to agree to an early delivery of vaccine supplies in the country, National Policy against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said yesterday.

Galvez said the bulk of the country’s supply of vaccines is slated to arrive by the third or fourth quarter of the year, but an early delivery is currently tabled with vaccine manufacturers.

Aat a press conference, the vaccine czar said all critical points in negotiations have already been ironed out, and that the government was confident that all contracts would be finished before the month ends.

As the country prepares for the arrival of vaccines, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also assured the public that there are adequate cold storage facilities that can store vaccines within temperature ranges 2°C to 8°C and -20°C.

Galvez said several pharmaceutical companies, based on estimates culled online, charge P70 to P100 per dose of vaccines for storage, but negotiations are still ongoing.

The Philippines is negotiating for 148 million doses of vaccines.

He added that the companies would be facilitating the transport of vaccines from their storage facilities to vaccination sites, taking into consideration those made by Pfizer and Moderna which require subzero temperature storage.

BOC begins preparations

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has begun its preparations for the expected influx of approved COVID-19 vaccines into the country, which may start as early as next month.

In a statement, the BOC said various port districts across the country have started coordinating with concerned government agencies and facilities to expedite the processing and release of vaccines once these arrive in the country.

The BOC added that it is also planning to utilize its one-stop shop in processing imported vaccines. The facility, launched last year, proved to be successful as it helped speed up the release of personal protective equipment from ports, according to the bureau.

“The one-stop shops are expected to be more efficient this time around with the Port Customer Care Centers now fully operational with online systems more accessible to the public,” the BOC said.

In addition, the BOC is also aiming to intensify its crackdown against illegal and smuggled vaccines by improving coordination with law enforcement agencies and enhancing data gathering capabilities.

“Amid reports of black market vaccines being distributed and administered in the country, the bureau remains committed to seizing such items and apprehending unscrupulous individuals,” it said.

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