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Makati Mayor Abby Binay on the financial hub’s vaccine drive and pandemic response

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Apr 30, 2021 9:48 am

From the start of the pandemic, Makati City has optimized its available resources for its COVID-19 response—from initiating contactless monetary ayuda distribution, implementing a salary hike for its nurses, to using repurposed jeepneys to bring vaccine registration closer to the masses.

As the city continues to take further strides in implementing the programs it initiated for its over 600,000 residents, Makati City Mayor Abigail “Abby” Binay addresses how the city responds to the challenges of the pandemic.

At present, Makati City has 1,300 active cases. Though the number of infections has slowed down, it is still not in the level of manageability, Binay said during PhilSTAR Life’s Let’s Talk COVID-19 livestream.

Early this month, Makati reported that its hospitals and quarantine facilities have reached full capacity but its hospitals’ occupancy rate is now going down.

With the lessons of the surge of cases in the hospitals, Binay said a home COVID care program is in the works, where they will provide tools like telemedicine and home care kits to those who are infected with COVID-19.

Binay said the capacity building for the healthcare system continues, adding to the initial facilities the city has laid out at the onset of the pandemic, including isolation tents that added ICU capacity for Ospital ng Makati, converting hotels to quarantine facilities and building quarantine facilities with the help of the private sector and DPWH.

Digital COVID-19 response

From distributing cash assistance to its residents, to contact tracing and vaccine registration, the city optimizes the use of technology for contactless and more organized system.

According to Binay, they tapped the University of Makati to develop an organic software to manage COVID patient data and contact tracing. This system is linked to the U Make Makati Safe app and portal for its health declaration form and QR code.

Makati also implements online vaccine registration but for those who are not tech savvy or don’t have the means to register, the city deploys a mobile vaccine registration using its existing Dyipni Maki, which are repurposed jeepneys initially used as learning hubs. These mobile units, fitted with computers and internet, go to barangays where people can register.

After registration, the individual will receive a text message that contains the date and location of their vaccination. The information may also be accessed by the individual through the city’s portal, which has received over 112,000 vaccine registrations according to Binay.

Vaccination drive

Makati has allotted P1 billion for the purchase of vaccines. According to Binay, they have ordered one million doses of AstraZeneca—which the mayor hopes would arrive in July—for its residents and non-resident workers that are covered by the free-COVID vaccination program.

Currently, they have  inoculated more than 34,000 individuals using the vaccines from the national government. Around 2,000 individuals have already received their two doses, according to the mayor.

When it comes to the current vaccine supplies, Binay said, “We are at the mercy of the national government as far as the supply is concerned. Kung may ibabakuna at may gustong magpabakuna, ibabakuna po namin iyon. The concern really is the supply because how can we sustain the momentum kung kulang kami sa supply.”

With the limited supply of the vaccines, the city is prioritizing its senior citizens to be vaccinated.

Meanwhile, for companies that have purchased their own vaccines and will seek third-party provider to vaccinate their employees, Binay said the LGU’s participation will be supervisory—issuing vaccination cards and updating the city’s database with the names of those vaccinated.

What are city’s next steps?

“In any disaster, there is recovery and resilience. Ang sususunod na kailangan naming paghandaan ay ang recovery program namin. Ito yung mga tao na nawalan ng trabaho, mga kumpanya na nagsara or nag-downsize,” Binay said of the challenges ahead.

But with the challenges there is hope, which for Binay is Makati’s high vaccine registration turnout, and especially the availability of the vaccines. “That’s why Makatizens should embrace it. ‘Wag na po tayo maging choosy… Sabi nga po, the best vaccine is the vaccine that’s available. If you’re already in the prioritization list, register, get vaccinated,” she said.

Binay also urges the citizens of Makati to encourage those who are still hesitant to get inoculated so the city reaches herd immunity and eventually open the economy. “Kung tayo ay kumbinsido nang magpa-bakuna, we should convince others to do the same because we will not reach herd immunity kung hindi po tayo lahat magpapabakuna.”