By Hannah Patricia Abril | April 11, 2021
In accordance with Malacañang’s new order in allowing private firms to purchase vaccines, Silliman University has requested 10,000 doses of the Covovax vaccines for faculty and staff and their dependents.
SU COVID-19 Response Committee Secretariat Atty. Joshua Ablong said Friday, UNILAB—Covovax’s distributor—has informed them that the arrival of the vaccines may be in the last weeks of May or June. As soon as the vaccine arrives, faculty and staff will be immediately vaccinated at a DOH-accredited vaccination site.
“The sooner we vaccinate all teachers and staff in the university, the sooner we get to transition to face to face classroom interaction or perhaps a mixture of both,” Atty. Ablong stated.
In compliance with the Department of Labor and Employment guidelines, the university will shoulder all 700+ personnel and their one dependents’ costs for vaccination. Household members may be included in the vaccine purchase order, however, this must be disbursed by the employee.
According to the Commision on Higher Education’s March 16 memorandum, teaching and non-teaching personnel from higher education institutions are included in one of the priority groups of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.
“Teachers are prioritized for vaccination and so in line with that thrust, we in the university also established that (vaccination) program precisely to address that need,” Atty. Ablong shared in an interview. “Because teachers, notwithstanding the fact that we are doing the online modality of the delivery of education, our teachers do report for work. They go out of their homes…”
Atty. Ablong added that the undertaking of the vaccine is purely voluntary and that there will be no forced vaccinations among teachers and staff. The university will be rolling out purchase order forms to sign wherein they fill in their names, the names of their dependents, and household members.
The response team also requires personnel to consult with a doctor and take examinations prior to vaccination to make sure they are qualified to take the vaccine.
“Admittedly the vaccines that we have right now do have certain side effects, and for the most part while these side effects are mild and in fact are expected, there might be some individuals who are really not a qualified to take it,” Atty, Ablong shared. “We just want to make sure that everyone who takes the vaccine is physically fit to have it, and so we will be requiring that they first visit their own doctors.”
The secretariat shared that their choice of vaccine had been a “blessing in disguise” if not for AstraZeneca’s unavailability to receive orders from private sectors.
“We were not able to catch or be able to order before they closed their doors for further orders but I think it’s a blessing in disguise in the sense that we do have issues with AstraZeneca right now. In fact in Europe, they suspended deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine…”
The secretariat admits that the university chose Covovax for its high efficacy rate, especially its combined efficacy against the original SARS-CoV-2 and the B.1.1.7, better known as the UK variant 89.3 percent. It is also found to be 60.1 percent effective against the South African variant.
Cost-wise, Atty. Ablong explained that Covovax is the best choice right now for the university based on its “availability, efficacy, and pricing.”
“So far as pricing is concerned, it is relatively cheaper compared to Sinovac. For the two doses of Covovax, we only paid P2000, and that includes everything. From the plant to the actual site where the vaccination will take place. So it includes everything; transportation cost, logistics, everything.”
The secretariat also shared that the university’s vaccine budget comes from the liquidity reserves that are set aside for calamities and extraordinary events. This reserve is not part of SU’s usual budget that is prepared annually.
Vaccines for SU students
Despite the huge amount of Covovax vaccines the university has requested to UNILAB, this is reserved only for faculty and staff in compliance to the Department of Health’s priority list.
Atty. Ablong said that there is a “gray area” concerning vaccinating the students.
“If you look at, let’s say the profile of Covovax, it is only recommended for people beyond the age of 18. It’s not recommended for individuals below the age of 18, and I’m not so sure when it comes to the other vaccines but in so far Covovax is concerned those that are qualified for vaccination are those ages 18 and above,” he shared. “We await for further clarification from the government.”