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Vax to the future: City mayors on innovations to fight COVID-19, and the work beyond

By Brooke Villanueva Published May 03, 2021 2:50 pm

Amid the daunting challenges of trying to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of local government units have been making strides in protecting their constituents. Though they have their work cut out for them, each area have been making innovations in their pandemic mitigation strategies.

City mayors took part in PhilSTAR L!FE’s recently-concluded webinar series dubbed “Vax to the Future: Let’s Talk COVID-19” to discuss how their local government units are faring so far in stemming the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Rex Gatchalian of Valenzuela City, Mayor Francis Zamora of San Juan City, Mayor Abby Binay of Makati City, and Mayor Joy Belmonte of Quezon City specifically talked about the current COVID-19 situation, vaccination program, and next steps of their respective LGUs as their city residents try to move toward their post-pandemic lives. Here’s a quick rundown of what they shared at the livestream.

How’s the COVID-19 situation in your city?

Belmonte: It is much lower than it was a few weeks ago but I think it’s slightly higher pa din than the NCR average. I think our positivity rate is about 21% and our reproduction rate is about 1.2-1.23. It's much lower than it was even last week but it’s still slightly higher than NCR.

Gatchalian: We’re definitely seeing a downward trend. Hindi lang kasing bilis pero pababa na siya. Noon, we would see 20 to 22% positivity rate, now we’re down to 18 to 19. So, hopefully in the coming days, as we feel the effect of the ECQ and the MECQ, we get to see lower numbers coming along.

Binay: Presently, we are at 1,300 active cases. Pero ang napansin namin, bumagal. Hindi na mabilis ang taas ng kaso. Pero hindi pa siya ganun kababa para sabihin natin na komportable na po kami dun sa numero. It’s still not in that level of manageability but ang tatandaan po natin na lagi din pong sinasabi ng DOH, 90% po ay mild or asymptomatic pero ang problema po, yung ating critical cases. Dun po tayo nagkakaproblema dahil sila po yung namamatay or sila po yung nangangailangan ng hospital bed. Meron pong cases na mild na pumupunta sa hospital, so sila po yung nag-o-occupy ng kama that is meant for a person na mas malala ang kaso ng COVID.

Zamora: Itong surge nating nararanasan ngayon, which is bumababa na, ito yung highest ever na inaabot natin in terms of active cases, which is around 1,100. Ngunit ngayon, bumaba na down to 605 and I’m optimistic that in the coming days, in the coming weeks, bababa pa ito. Kaya nga po, sa totoo lang, ako po ay bumoto na manatili ang MECQ possibly for another two weeks sapagkat kung masyadong maagang magbubukas uli ng ekonomiya, yung binababa na kaso ngayon, tataas lang po ulit.

What’s the status of vaccinations in your area?

Belmonte: Sa first dose, we have already vaccinated 136,000—that’s an estimate, more or less from A1-A3. At yung mga nakatanggap na po ng second dose, mga 7,052. This is about 8% of the total population that we would like to vaccinate. We have to vaccinate about 1.6 million people here in Quezon City. That’s a huge amount. We are very far from that amount pero based on good planning, maayos naman po ang logistics, we are still attempting to achieve that herd immunity by at least six to eight months, assuming there’s a steady supply of vaccines arriving in our city.

Gatchalian: Doon sa aming appointment system, ikaw rin pipili ng vaccination site mo. Ang nabakunahan namin, nasa mga 15,000 na. Ang average na nababakunahan namin sa isang araw, 800 to 1,000 na indibidwal. Nasa mga 15,000 na kami ngayon. We still have a supply of almost around 7,000 sa bodega namin, which matatapos in one week. Ang nabigay sa amin all in all na first dose ay around 22,000 of which 15,000 na halos ang natapos namin, excluding today pa.

Binay: Ang lungsod po ay naglaan ng isang bilyong piso para sa pagbili ng bakuna. Naka-order po tayo ng one million doses ng AstraZeneca na sana dadating ng July. Kapag dumating po siya ng July, we will be able to vaccinate 500,000 of our constituents. As of now, yung supply na natatanggap natin ay nanggagaling sa national government. If you look at the population based on the census, ang population po ng Makati is around 600,000. Kung nakabili kami ng AstraZeneca na 500,000, that's obviously more than 70% to reach herd immunity. Ang nabakunahan na po namin as of today, more than 34,000. Ang nagregister na po sa amin sa aming portal ay umabot na po ng 112,000. So maganda po ang aming turnout sa registration.

Zamora: Our target for herd immunity is 85,400. We are still at 10,000 plus now. Iyan po kasi ay dependent sa vaccine supply natin. Ang ating population as of the 2015 census ay 122,000. Iyan po ang last official data natin from the Philippine Statistics Authority. But I’m anticipating na mas mataas na ng konti but we still use it as a reference to measure 70%. We are still 75,000 San Juaneños away from herd immunity and the biggest factor is the vaccine supply. Wala kaming sarili pang supply sa ngayon sapagkat yung binili nating 100,000 doses gamit ang pondo ng San Juan, inaasahang darating pa po 'yan sa Hunyo o Hulyo. Hangga't hindi namin hawak yung 100,000 doses na 'yan, kami ay talagang umaasa sa national government.

Are residents allowed to be choosy about their COVID vaccine?

Belmonte: Pare-pareho lang naman at the end of the day yung mga bakunang 'yan. Kapag inaprubahan po ng FDA yan, dumaan na po 'yan sa masusing pag-aaral. Lalong lalo na kapag dumaan pa sa ibang FDA ng iba pang mga bansa katulad ng mga first world countries. Makasisiguro naman kayo na ligtas ito at epektibo. So, huwag na pong maging choosy at baka mahawa pa at magkaroon ng COVID. If you have that opportunity to be vaccinated, please accept the first vaccine that is offered to you.

Gatchalian: Binigyan tayo ng dalawang klaseng brand ng national government—yung AstraZeneca at Sinovac. Naubos na natin yung AstraZeneca so ngayon ang natira, Sinovac na. Pwede bang choosy? Yes, you can tell your local government when you get your appointments letter, nakalagay dun na kapag ayaw mo yung brand, punitin mo man yung letter na 'yun, hindi ka mabubura sa system. So ang mangyayari, kapag dumating ulit yung next supply ng bakuna, we’ll start from the top of the list again and looking for all those priority groups na ibinigay sa atin. Pinaliwanag namin sa taumbayan ng Valenzuela na sa ngayon, Sinovac lang ang available pero the moment na may ibinigay na brand ulit yung national government, we’ll make sure to give them a choice. Pero if limitado lang yung supply na 'yun, you’ll really have to settle with what’s there.

Binay: Vaccination is the hope kaya yung mga Makatizen should embrace it. Huwag na maging choosy. Sabi nga po, the best vaccine is the vaccine that’s available. If you’re already in the prioritization, take it. Get vaccinated.

Zamora: We can be choosy for as long as we have supply. For instance, kapag dumating ang ating AstraZeneca na 100,000 doses, that will be good for 50,000 San Juaneños. If we have the supply, they can afford to make a choice but right now, I’m very sorry because we have run out of the national government allocation for AstraZeneca so wala po tayong choice muna sa ngayon except Sinovac. But ako, I will tell you, Sinovac ang binakuna sa akin. Wala akong naramdamang anumang side effects.

What are your next steps for your local government unit?

Belmonte: We are much more ready now compared to last time. Now, kahit na lockdown, we have invested tremendously in testing. We have more than a thousand antigen tests already procured. We have also been given additional PCR tests that will allow us to test more than 1,000 a day and we are targeting 3,200 isolation beds by May 15.

Gatchalian: The protocolsare already there. We just really have to implement it to the detail. Number one, you test. Kahit na nung Pasko na wala na masyadong kaso, tuloy-tuloy kami sa 500 samples every day. Kami na humahalughog sa siyudad para mahanap namin ang mga potential carriers at yung mga exposed na exposed. At syempre, yung contact tracing namin. Hindi na mano-mano. But with ValTrace, we can read out your trail. It gives us a richer and more expansive contact tracing mechanism. Pangatlo, treat. Kami sa Valenzuela, we’re known na no home quarantine policy kami. Naniniwala kami na lahat dapat nasa isolation facility para talagang foolproof and talagang we cut the chain of infection from the ground. We operate 14 isolation centers with a span of 1,300 beds all in all.

Binay: Siguro ang tanong is "What happens after COVID-19?" In any disaster, there is recovery and resilience. Ang susunod na kailangan naming paghandaan ay yung recovery program namin. Ito po yung mga tao na nawalan ng trabaho, ito po yung mga kumpanya na nagsara or nag-downsize. You will still have to live with COVID. Hindi naman agad nawawala ang ganyan. Hindi po porket nabakunahan na, back to normal na agad. Hindi natin alam kailan mababalik sa dati. So ang kailangang paghandaan ay "After you recover from the health pandemic, how do you help the economy recover?"

Zamora: Itong vaccine mismo ang gamechanger. Ibig sabihin, kapag makamit natin talaga ang majority ng ating mamamayan ay nabakunahan na, ang ibig sabihin nito, majority ng ating mamamayan ay mabibigyan ng proteksiyon. We need to vaccinate our population. Sa ngayon, talagang wala pang supply pero darating 'yan sa mga susunod na buwan. So habang hindi pa 'yan nangyayari, yung minimum health standards po. Kailangan mag-ingat tayo at kahit nabakunahan tayo ay mag-iingat pa rin tayo.

Article thumbnails from the webinar