At least 4,800 doses of Sinovac vaccines are set to arrive Friday, March 5, kicking off the COVID-19 vaccination program of the Department of Health (DOH) in the region.

Dr. Mario Baquilod, regional director of DOH-MIMAROPA, confirmed during a live press briefing on Thursday afternoon, that 10,200 doses of vaccines have been allocated for healthcare workers in MIMAROPA, with Puerto Princesa City and Palawan taking up the largest chunk of the COVID-19 vaccine shares.

In its initial distribution, 3,600 doses were allocated for Puerto Princesa City; 1,200 for Palawan; 2,600 for Oriental Mindoro; 1,200 for Occidental Mindoro; 1,000 for Romblon, and 600 for Marinduque, kicking off the regional vaccine roll-out by Sunday, March 7.

The Coronavac doses, which were developed by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac, were part of the 600,000 jabs from China that came to the country early this week.

Dr. Mathew Medrano, deputy Incident Commander of regional vaccination program, said that the allocation was based on the number of patients received by the DOH referral hospitals.

“We prioritized DOH referral hospitals and Level 2 hospitals. Ospital Ng Palawan (ONP) isa sa pinakamataas na number of patients na tinatanggap. Our Level 2 hospitals, Adventist [Hospital Palawan], and MMG-PPC [Cooperative Hospital], are also in Palawan, sila ang nag-contribute sa malaking allocation ng probinsya,” Medrano said.

In the latest tally of the Center for Health Development (CHD-MIMAROPA), Oriental Mindoro topped the list with 1,340 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with Palawan at 409, and Puerto Princesa at 203.

Dr. Melecio Dy, hospital director of ONP; and Dr. Paul Castillo, medical director of MMG-PPC Cooperative Hospital, in separate statements, said they will avail of the Coronavac vaccine, once made available, to boost vaccine confidence among the local healthcare workers.

“Since ‘yan ang available na vaccine as of now, and approved ng ating vaccine expert task force, I will avail the vaccine,” said Dy in a separate message.

Medrano pointed out that the healthcare workers “have the freedom to choose”, assuring the medical frontliners that the  COVID-19 vaccines were effective to “preserve the healt system capacity” and “protect those at most risk for severe disease and death”.

This, after certain local healthcare workers expressed hesitation on receiving Sinovac jabs, citing that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Philippines has not released the result of the phase 3 of the clinical trials, where the drug administration based its emergency use authorization.

“Everybody has the right to decline, and accept the next available na bakuna na darating,” Medrano said.

Baquilod, however, reiterated that the DOH central office has yet to confirm if MIMAROPA were to receive any allocations from the 487,200 doses of AstraZeneca, developed by British-Swedish pharmaceutical company, expected to arrive in the country on Thursday evening.

“We have a masterlist that we established since December 2020. If someone refuses, the vaccine will be cascaded down to whoever is next,” Baquilod said.

Medrano also said that the national government has prepared an “indemnification agreement” to those who would suffer complications from the vaccine.

“Pananagutan ng national government kung mayroon mang adverse effects, pero we have protocols, like screening, physical exam, and checking of history of allergy, to minimize adverse events,” Medrano added.

The vaccines would be delivered by C-130 airplanes and Black Hawk choppers of the Philippine Air Force (PAF). (with reports from Patricia Laririt)