Metro Manila will remain under a general community quarantine (GCQ) in February, Taguig City Mayor Lino Cayetano said Wednesday.
Metro Manila mayors met on Tuesday night to come up with a recommendation to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) regarding the quarantine classification starting Feb.1.
Cayetano said the Metro Manila Council would make the official announcement, but he said it was the consensus of the mayors that the GCQ would remain.
Cayetano said in an interview on radio dzBB that maintaining GCQ in Metro Manila would help prevent spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases.
Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer, said the mayors’ move was “a correct judgment” as they considered the new, more contagious COVID-19 variant in their quarantine status proposal.
“The good thing we saw among Metro Manila mayors is they are very candid in assessing the situation, and considering also the situation right now worldwide, it is not getting any better, and I think the most prudent thing is really to maintain the business activities with much caution,” Galvez, who is also the country’s vaccine czar, said in a press briefing.
“That is a correct judgement and prudent enough. I really respect the comment and suggestion of many mayors that it is easier to ease up later if we are able to control the situation right now,” he added.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority General Manager (MMDA) general manager Jojo Garcia, meanwhile, said all the local government units in the National Capital Region are prepared for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
The mayors met virtually with officials of IATF led by Galvez Jr. and discussed plans for the vaccination program as the arrival of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines nears.
“Secretary Galvez assured us that the initial batch of COVID-19 vaccines will arrive before the end of February. I think they can finalize it in the next few days,” Garcia said.
Garcia did not disclose the brands of vaccines, but he said there are three brands that are expected to arrive by the end of February.
National Task Force officials are set to visit all LGUs in Metro Manila to check on their plans and preparations for the rollout of COVID vaccines.
“We all know that these vaccines are sensitive and will require proper handling and storage,” Garcia said.
On Monday, Garcia and other members of the Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE) team visited Pasig, the first LGU with a Department of Health-World Health Organization-approved vaccination plan, to discuss the city government’s preparations.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meanwhile, said the British company AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine would likely get an emergency use authorization (EUA) in a week.
“Our experts had questions and AstraZeneca submitted their answers before midnight of Friday. We have finished evaluation already, I am just leafing through them and the recommendations have been positive and very favorable,” FDA director general Eric Domingo said in an interview on CNN Philippines on Wednesday.
Domingo said that the positive recommendation “is both for the technical and quality side and the safety and efficacy side.”
AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which it developed with Oxford University, is administered in two doses, and has posted an efficacy rate of 90 percent after human trials.
AstraZeneca has already secured an EUA in the United Kingdom whose regulatory authority is considered a stringent regulatory authority by WHO.
The Philippine FDA earlier granted EUA to Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine after it was found to be 95 percent and 92 percent effective in a study population and among all races, respectively.
On Wednesday, Domingo acknowledged that the availability of cold storage facilities would be a challenge in the plan to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines, some of which need to be stored at ultra-cold conditions.
The DOH, however, says there are enough cold storage facilities from private companies as well as the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and its regional offices.
Galvez on Wednesday said the Philippines would get its first batch of 1 million COVID-19 vaccine shots next month.
Galvez said he was negotiating with pharmaceutical firms to get 200,000 to 500,000 doses from UK’s AstraZeneca for health workers, 500,000 doses from China’s Sinovac, and an unspecified number of shots from Pfizer.
On Tuesday, the DOH said it is not necessary for vaccine recipients to have themselves tested for the disease or for allergies, although certain brands have specific rules.
During a vaccine forum, Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said that some vaccines, like Pfizer’s, specify that those who were already infected with COVID-19 must defer vaccination for 60 to 90 days.
“Based on that, we will have specific guidelines for specific vaccines,” she said.
Cabotaje said once the guidelines are approved by the Secretary of Health, they can release it to the public.
Asked if an allergy test would also be required for the Pfizer vaccine, which listed severe allergic reactions as a contraindication, the Health official said, “As of now, there will be no allergy test because it will take time.”
Cabotaje said relying on the medical history of the patient should be sufficient.
She added that vaccinations normally do not require skin tests for allergies.
As part of the vaccine roll-out procedure, those who will get vaccinated will also be required to stay at the immunization site for 30 minutes to an hour so they can be observed for side effects.