DOH, PPHA Conduct Vaccine Deployment Town Hall

As the country gears up for COVID-19 vaccine deployment, the Department of Health and the Philippine Pharmacists Association (PPhA) jointly organized a Town Hall Meeting that highlights the critical role of pharmacists in this vaccination program.

“We are getting closer to our goal of immunizing Filipinos against COVID-19 and the government needs all the support, not just in securing and deploying vaccines, but especially in helping people in our community understand that vaccines work and help save lives.” Health Secretary Francisco T Duque III said.

Part of the info session series on COVID-19 vaccination program, the Town Hall aims to multiply champions by providing various sectors timely information about vaccine selection, evaluation, procurement and deployment. The Town Hall also serves as a platform to clarify the questions surrounding vaccines.

In his opening message, National Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF) Chief Implementer and Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. said that PPhA is one of the major pillars in the health sector and asked for their support in the government’s vaccination program. “The government has emphasized the need to implement the whole-of-nation, whole-of-society approach in our fight against COVID-19. This has to be a concerted effort. We need to mobilize all sectors of society to mitigate the impact of the virus and achieve herd immunity within this year and recover our nation’s economy. And today we ask for your continued support and cooperation,” he said.

Also recognizing the role of pharmacists in ensuring safe access to quality health technologies in their communities, PPhA President Dr. Sebua-Saljay hoped that the town hall would help the participants understand the goal of the government in increasing vaccine confidence. “We firmly believe that the involvement of pharmacists is vital to expand vaccination pathways by the government in order to deliver vaccination coverage in the Philippines as quickly as possible.”

She also encouraged the participants to support the government in increasing public uptake on vaccines saying, “As pharmacists are strategically positioned in their communities, may we serve as champions in advocating the government’s vaccination communication and deployment plans. Let us act in solidarity especially during this time of pandemic.”

“Ang pharmacists ay may malaking maii-ambag, lalo na sa usapin tungkol sa bakuna at pagbabakuna. Ang bakuna ay gamot, at kapag may gamot, mahalagang may pharmacist. Malaki ang maitutulong ang pharmacist sa iba’t-ibang aspeto ng bakuna, mula sa pag aaral hanggang sa paggamit nito, pati na ang pagbabakuna, kung paano makakarating ang bakuna sa ating mga pasyente ng may kalidad, dahil may kaakibat itong iba’t-ibang proseso na dapat nating tignan,” Aldrin C. Santiago of the Professional Regulation Commission-Board of Pharmacy added.

During the discussion, PPhA’s National Program Manager Mr. Bryan Posadas said that pharmacists have an active role in facilitating vaccines and in educating and vaccinating people. Health social scientist Prof. Nina Castillo-Carandang of the University of the Philippines Manila College of Medicine addressed issues on vaccine hesitancy and Dr. Marion Kwek of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases discussed the current vaccines on the pipeline. Meanwhile, DOH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje, Food and Drug Administration Director General Eric Domingo, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) – Vaccine Expert Panel Head Dr. Nina Gloriani, and DOST Philippine Council for Health Research and Development Executive Dir. Jaime Montoya assured the participants of the safety in vaccine selection and the plans for its deployment.

To address issues on vaccine confidence and the deployment plan, Dr. Anna Lisa Ong-Lim of the Philippine General Hospital and DOH Technical Advisory Group and Prof. Roderick L. Salenga of University of the Philippines Manila – College of Pharmacy facilitated the panel discussion.

The session closed with DOH Health Promotion Bureau Director Beverly Lorraine Ho emphasizing the experts prioritized safety in reviewing the vaccines, and asked the participants to respect and trust the scientific process. Usec. Cabotaje reiterated that, while healthcare workers are prioritized in the immunization program, they will have a consent on whether they want to get vaccinated or not. Should they decline the vaccine that will initially be available due to brand preference, they will have to wait for their turn. Dir. Montoya encouraged them to take the earliest opportunity to get immunized as healthcare workers are the most at-risk in their line of duty and supplies are limited. Dr. Kwek added that it is not only the lives of healthcare workers that are at-risk, but also the lives of the people surrounding them. Dr. Lim also said that rapid immunization is an important strategy to counter more contagious COVID-19 variants.

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