With UP short on vaccines, student jabs remain in limbo

What you need to know: 

  • It took five months for the target 5,000 UP Diliman personnel to be vaccinated with at least their first dose since the COVID-19 vaccination program began in April. 
  • Some UP employees’ vaccination schedules were up in the air for weeks due to the inconsistent vaccine supply at UP Diliman. 
  • As the vaccination drive agreement with the QC LGU ends in September, UP Diliman is yet to announce a mass vaccination program for its 26,000 students. 

Bureaucratic processes and vaccine shortages cause delays in UP Diliman’s vaccination program for employees and their dependents, university officials said. 

Bakunahan sa Diliman, which began in April, planned to inoculate 5,000 registered UP personnel within only two months. The program, however, took until August to administer the first dose of jabs for its target recipients, who fall under the A1 to A4 categories.

The vaccination drive is a collaboration between UP Diliman and the Quezon City (QC) local government unit (LGU). Under the agreement, the College of Human Kinetics (CHK) Gym would serve as a vaccination site for QC in exchange for the complete inoculation of 5,000 UP constituents. 

READ: UP Diliman to open COVID-19 vaccination hub for Quezon City residents

“We would get 200 vaccines at a time, tapos ‘yung kasunod noon hindi pa natin alam kung kailan darating. So meron talagang kakulangan ng bakuna,” said Dulce Natividad, Bakunahan sa Diliman supervisor.

Because UP’s vaccine supply is scarce, Natividad said they had to be in “frequent negotiations” with the LGU over the daily schedule and the volume of vaccines set for UP personnel.

“Hindi madaling makabuo ng 5,000 [vaccinees],” Natividad said. “Merong mga panahon na maraming [vaccines, pero] mas maraming panahon na kulang.”

For every vaccination schedule, UP first works with the QC Health Department to negotiate the volume of vaccine deliveries. Afterward, the university coordinates with the Office of the City Mayor to align registration timetables with barangays. 

“It took so long, kasi dalawang grupo ang binabakunahan natin. Sa ngayon, mukhang mas marami na tayong nabakunahan na [residente] mula sa mga barangay kaysa UP personnel,” Natividad said.

QC residents from Districts 3 and 4 are given priority in UP-CHK, according to a COVID-19 Task Force report. But regardless of their district, residents who chose the CHK gym vaccination site in QC’s online registration platform eZConsult were accommodated.

Data from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs (OVCCA) shows that 64% of 18,084 doses administered in the UP-CHK vaccination site were given to QC residents, 33% to UP employees and 3% to UP-CHK volunteers.

Registration delays

The confirmation of jab schedules for UP employees was also slowed down because of the irregular vaccine supply, said Natividad. 

While UP personnel may register for vaccines through the university’s channels, some employees found it faster to book slots through QC’s registration sites.

Natividad added that since the city’s LGU has direct access to the vaccines, they can confirm schedules faster than UP.

“Sa atin [UP], hindi kami pwedeng magbigay ng schedule beforehand kung walang supply ng bakuna. Iyon ‘yung iniiwasan namin kasi mas nakakatakot ‘yon magbigay ng schedule without yung actual vaccines on-site,” Natividad added.

Mia Tejada, an instructor from the College of Arts and Letters, was among the first who registered in Bakunahan sa Diliman in late April. But she said the long wait and lack of consistent updates made her “uneasy with the process.”

“[UP] said ‘you’re gonna be vaccinated this week or next week’ and then they said ‘we have to wait for the vaccine supply’ but then there weren’t any more updates after,” she recalled.

With her growing anxiety, Tejada took her co-faculty’s advice to register at eZConsult and indicate UP-CHK as the vaccination site “to get a schedule faster.” 

Virtual care network eZConsult was QC’s scheduling platform when vaccines were first rolled out in March. But multiple glitches pushed city officials to drop eZConsult in June.

Tejada was among the last individuals to register with eZConsult on June 29. 

When university officials finally confirmed her vaccination schedule on July 3, Tejada had already received her first dose through eZConsult. 

“Noong nag open tayo ng registration, it was with all hope na mababakunahan natin as soon as possible ang mga tao. Pero hindi iyon nangyari.  So, kailangan maghintay ng mga tao. Alam namin naiinip eh, aware na aware kami roon kasi kami rin naiinip,” Natividad said.  

Bakuhanan sa Diliman opened another round of registration for personnel and their dependents on Aug. 10 to fill the 5,000-vaccinee target. Eight days later, the QC LGU granted 750 more slots for construction workers on the campus. 

As of writing, this is the only time that the QC LGU added vaccine slots on top of their contract with UP Diliman. 

Vaccinating students

With the vaccination agreement with QC ending this month, UP Diliman opened limited immunization slots for graduating students from selected colleges. 

These are the Colleges of Arts and Letters, Home Economics, Engineering, Science, Social Work and Community Development and Music along with the Institute of Islamic Studies and the Archaeological Studies Program.

READ: Graduating students from limited UPD colleges eligible for vaccination – OVCAA

However, UP is yet to announce a mass vaccination program for its entire student population.

Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Aleli Bawagan said that “ideas are already being floated” for a potential student-wide vaccination drive but are still far from “the first step of even procuring” the vaccines. The UP system is also exploring the idea of getting vaccine donations from private companies, she added.

“Nais sana nga ng UP na magkaroon din ng agreement with some pharmaceutical companies. Nagkataon lang na nauunahan tayo ng supply from the LGUs,” Bawagan said. “Under negotiations pa ‘yun so wala pa kaming masyadong detalye. Pero kung makuha natin ‘yun puwedeng pag-isipan kung paano gamitin ‘yung makukuhang donation.”

As of writing, the only students that are vaccinated in the CHK gym are those who stay in UP Diliman dormitories. Natividad estimates around 30 of them, excluding volunteers in the vaccination site. 

“Ang laki ng populasyon ng estudyante natin. So imagine-in mo na yung 5,000 na staff kailangan nating pagtrabahuhan ng limang buwan bago natin makumpleto ‘yung bakuna, ang estudyante natin 26,000, so ‘yun ‘yung kailangan pag-isipan,” said Natividad. 

Still, she hopes that UP Diliman would one day be able to extend its vaccination drive to its students for the gradual resumption of face-to-face classes. 

“Syempre gusto nating bigyan ng serbisyo ‘yung mga estudyante natin. Just the idea, parang nakaka-excite isipin, kulang na lang tayo ng bakuna,” Natividad added. 

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