March 15, 2021 — As the country gears up for the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines, the British Embassy Manila and UP College of Public Health (UP CPH) launched the United Kingdom (UK)-Philippines Vaccine Deployment Clinic, a four-part webinar series which focuses on topics related to the vaccine roll-out in the country.
The first session held on February 10, 2021, was entitled “Vaccine Procurement and Deployment: Lessons Learned from Developing a Cross-government Strategy Informed by Scientific Advice.” Attracting more than 500 participants from government agencies, health facilities, and educational institutions in the Philippines and the United Kingdom; the learning series kicked off with opening remarks from UP Manila Chancellor Carmencita Padilla and Ambassador Daniel Pruce of the British Embassy Manila. Discussions were moderated by UP CPH Dean and Centre Director Dr. Vicente Belizario, Jr. and Dr. Maria Margarita Lota, Chair of the UP CPH Department of Medical Microbiology (DMM).
Invited speakers were Professor Carole Mundell, Chief Scientific Envoy of the UK Special Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE); Mr. Chris Minchell, deputy director of the UK Vaccine Task Force at the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy; and Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr, chief implementer of the Philippine National Task Force for COVID-19.
Focusing on the importance of informing pandemic responses through scientific advice, Professor Mundell related how the UK quickly identified response groups from a pool of scientific experts and how they promptly upscaled vaccine research, planning, and manufacturing, even in the early days of the pandemic. She underlined the importance of an agile, evidence-based, and equitable pandemic response and emphasized that it is in the interest of the UK to assist low-income countries in gaining access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Meanwhile, coming from the perspective of industry regulation, Mr. Minchell discussed lessons learned from the UK government procurement strategy and cross-government coordination led by the Vaccine Task Force. He explained the necessity for streamlined decision making in the government; speed, diversity, and quality execution of trials by researchers; flexibility in manufacturing different vaccine forms in the supply chain; well-defined criteria for vaccine acceptability in regulatory agencies; and quick commercialization of available vaccines.
Finally, capping the series of talks was Secretary Galvez, who reported the Philippine national deployment strategy for COVID-19 vaccines which included negotiations with foreign governments including the UK and efforts to finance vaccination through discussions with the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. He also presented the status of preparations at the local government level, the roll-out plan for the four quarters of 2021, vaccination priority guidelines, and the conduct of simulation exercises all over the country. He highlighted the underlying principle of the government vaccination strategy: “walang iwanan, walang maiiwan.”
Dr. Sheriah Laine M. de Paz-Silava, Associate Professor at the DMM, served as the program moderator. The overall coordination was a joint effort of the DMM and the BEM-UP CPH Webinar Series Project Team led by Dr. Jaifred Lopez, Assistant Professor and Special Assistant to the Dean. This series also includes sessions on vaccine delivery and administration (February 17), risk communication (February 24) and vaccine safety and efficacy (March 3).
Sheriah Laine M. de Paz-Silava, MD, PhD