DOH says PHL cold storage facilities enough for coming COVID-19 vaccines; inspections start

Millions of vaccine doses can be stored in current facilities

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and national vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., inspects one of the cold storage facilities in Metro Manila. (Courtesy DOH)


(Eagle News) – The Department of Health said that the country will have enough cold chain storage facilities for the expected doses of COVID-19 vaccines expected to arrive starting next month.

The storage facilities currently in the country already have the capacity to store millions of doses of vaccines which have a temperature requirement of between 2°C to 8°C, between -15°C to -25°C, and even for those needing ultra-cold storage between -70°C to -80°C temperatures.

The government is also talking with other third-party logistics providers to ensure efficiency of the entire supply chain management of COVID-19 vaccines, from the receipt of vaccines from the COVAX Facility to its deployment, the DOH said.

“All of these preparations that we are undertaking are aimed at ensuring that the country is ready to receive, store, and mobilize the COVID-19 vaccines that will come from the COVAX Facility. We extend our thanks to our partners for their continued support to improve our cold storage capacity. We cannot make this endeavor a success if the government and the private sector work in silos. Our response has always been a whole-of-government, whole-of-society, whole-of-system approach,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

On Thursday, Jan. 20, Duque and Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. already visited three cold storage facilities that can potentially be used in the first wave of COVID-19 vaccine roll-out.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and national vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., inspects one of the cold storage facilities in Metro Manila. (Courtesy DOH)

Duque and Galvez already visited the following cold chain facilities: First Pioneer Distribution Center of UNILAB located in Biñan City, Laguna, the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City, and the Zuellig Pharma Corporation in Parañaque City.

The inspections were done to “ensure that the cold chain facilities will meet the storage requirement of vaccines prior to its distribution to identified vaccination sites.”

According to UNILAB, their cold storage facility has a temperature range of +2 to +8 °C and can store a maximum of five million doses of vaccines.

Zuellig Pharma also reported that its facilities can accommodate pharmaceutical products with temperature requirements ranging between -80°C to +25 °C. It said that its +2 to +8 °C cold rooms can store up to 629 million doses in various warehouses. Zuellig’s -15 to -25 °C walk-in freezers can also hold up to 40 million doses, and its 14 ultra-cold freezers with -80 to -70 °C temperature range has the capacity to store up to 6.5 million doses.

“The vaccine cluster, on behalf of the government, is grateful to UNILAB and Zuellig Pharma for partnering with the government in further strengthening the country’s capacity to curb the pandemic. We also express our commitment to ensure continued support for RITM in its preparations to receive vaccines,” Galvez said.

RITM Director Dr. Celia Carlos, on the other hand, said that the institute currently has four cold rooms with a +2 to +8 °C temperature range, one -20 °C walk-in freezer, and two borrowed ultra-low temperature freezers with a -70 to -80 °C temperature range. Presently, RITM commits its ultra-low temperature storage facility.

Galvez recommended that another team at the RITM be formed to exclusively handle the COVID-19 vaccine deployment. There will also be a separate team for vaccines under the Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI). In this way, there will be an “uninterrupted focus and roll-out of both immunization programs.”

(Eagle News Service)