Around 100 residents of Pag-Asa Island at the West Philippine Sea received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday. | Photos courtesy of Jeorgie Erika Villamor

The Kalayaan town in the Palawan province began its COVID-19 vaccination program on Tuesday, aiming to inoculate 100 individuals by the end of the week.

Nurse Dennis Abacial, acting Kalayaan municipal health officer, in a phone interview on Wednesday afternoon, said 65 individuals received their first jab on Tuesday, with the remaining 35 expected to be administered with the first dose by Wednesday.

Kalayaan remained to be the sole Palawan town free from the virus. | Photo courtesy of Jeorgie Erika Villamor

They received Coronavac vaccine, developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech Ltd., from the allocation of the Department of Health (DOH) through the Palawan Provincial Heath Office (PHO).

“We have around 550 residents including uniformed personnel and those who are residing in mainland, but there are only more or less 200 individuals in Pag-asa Island. They are our priority for now, and the rest, especially those in the mainland, will have a different schedule,” Abacial said.

As of Wednesday morning bulletin from the Palawan Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO), Kalayaan remained to be the sole Palawan town free from the virus out of the total 23 municipalities in the province.

Abacial added that the first group on the vaccination rollout included A1 to A5 categories from the DOH, which was also prioritized in anticipation of the incoming programs that is expected to bring in outsiders to the island.

“We want to make sure the island residents are vaccinated first because in the following months, workers may come in and we want to protect our island residents from the virus,” Abacial said.

The COVID-19 vaccination team included 10 medical and administrative frontliners, headed by Doctor Romulo Robles from the Palawan provincial health office; Maria Corazon D. Claridad, Executive Assistant II of the Kalayaan municipal government; and other representatives from the DOH-Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD MIMAROPA), and Palawan DOH Office (PDOHO).

The team departed from Puerto Princesa City on June 5 and arrived at Pag-asa Island on Monday, June 7, aboard ML Queen Seagull, a vessel owned by the municipal government.

Claridad, in a separate interview, said the team faced rough waves due to inclement weather that made their voyage challenging.

“Masama kasi panahon pero nakaraos para mabakunan ang mga residente dito,” Claridad said.

ML Queen Seagull was powered with a generator set to make sure that the vaccines maintained its cold-chain storage between 2 to 6 degrees Celsius during the transport.

“We anticipated logistical challenges. We have vaccine carrier device, it’s a digital refrigerator with thermometer, which was always being monitored by the team,” Abacial added.

The second dose of the anti-COVID jab is expected to be administered on July 6, the allocation of which were already secured at the PHO cold-chain storage in the village of Bancao-bancao in Puerto Princesa.

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