Govt probes Zamboanga del Sur fire that destroyed over 148,000 COVID-19 vaccines

CNN – Published Nov 2, 2021 1:35:15 PM

Metro Manila — The government is launching a thorough investigation into the fire that damaged 148,678 COVID-19 vaccine doses stored at the Zamboanga del Sur provincial health office, the National Task Force Against COVID-19 said on Tuesday.

It confirmed that 88,938 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, 36,164 doses of Sinovac, 14,400 doses of Moderna, and 9,176 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines were destroyed during the fire on Oct. 31. Other routine immunization vaccines were also ruined.

The AstraZeneca vaccines were supposed to be administered as second doses while the Moderna shots were scheduled to be used for pediatric vaccination, both slated on Nov. 3.

Vaccines for other areas were also damaged in the blaze, as the health office also served as the provincial cold chain storage facility for COVID-19 vaccines allocated for 26 municipalities and one component city.

The NTF said around 22,2000 Pfizer doses bound for Pagadian City were temporarily stored at the facility, while roughly the same amount were set to be deployed to other local government units, including 44,400 Pfizer shots meant for Zamboanga del Sur’s vaccination rollout.

It added the Sinovac doses were not delivered immediately because they were not the preferred brand of some LGUs, which refused to accept the shots.

The Health and Interior departments were tasked to thoroughly investigate the incident.

“Let us keep in mind that vaccines are gold, and one dose equals one life saved. May this unfortunate incident be a reminder to all local government units to ensure the safety and security of these life-saving vaccines,” the statement said. It was signed by DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, DILG chief Eduardo Año, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr., and testing czar Vince Dizon.

The DILG will also issue a show cause order to the provincial government of Zamboanga del Sur to explain its failure to deliver the vaccines three days after receipt – as indicated in a memorandum order.

“We will have to look bakit napakarami ng bakuna nila bakit hindi na-move [why they have a lot of vaccines that weren’t transferred] so we will look into that and see who are accountable,” National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) chairperson Myrna Cabotaje said.

Authorities are now trying to retrieve vaccines, refrigerators, vaccine carriers, and transport boxes that were not damaged and can still be used.

The government also assured the public that the stocks in the affected areas will be replenished, especially for those who are set to receive their second dose.

“The regional office is now doing its plan. Mayroon silang mga buffer stocks sa region, ibibigay nila iyan sa mga areas. Diretso na iyan sa mga bakuna center para mabakuna iyong second dose,” Cabotaje said.

[Translation: There are buffer stocks in the region, it will be distributed there. It will go straight to the vaccination centers so the second doses can be administered immediately.]


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