Japan gives PH grant to buy vaccine cold chain equipment

Japan has given the Philippines a 687-million-yen (about P304.7-million) grant so the Department of Health (DOH) can buy more cold chain equipment for COVID-19 vaccines.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) and the Philippine government on Friday signed the grant agreement under the Japanese government’s program for COVID-19 crisis response emergency support. Grants need not be repaid.

“The program aims to establish an effective and safe vaccination system and to contain a further spread of COVID-19, through providing cold chain and medical equipment as promptly as possible,” Jica said in a statement.

Jica documents showed that the DOH will implement this program nationwide during the next 15 months.

Jica will finance the purchase of cold chain equipment like portable vaccine boxes, refrigerated vaccine transport vehicles, as well as vaccine transport trucks.

The Japanese government’s aid arm will also provide technical assistance to the DOH to procure and maintain the vaccine equipment.

“The program contributes to ‘last one mile support’ of the government of Japan for ensuring vaccination in every country,” Jica said.

The mRNA-based vaccines such as those churned out by Moderna and Pfizer required ultra cold storage of -70 to -80 degrees Celsius. Due to lack of cold chain equipment and infrastructure, keeping COVID-19 vaccines under low temperature was a challenge in far-flung parts of the country; as such, mass vaccination lagged behind in rural areas compared to the urban population.

“COVID-19 has underlined a fundamental reality for many nations — we are all connected and we need to help one another so we can deal with all the challenges from the pandemic. As we sign new projects for cold storage and logistics equipment for the Philippines’ efforts against COVID-19, I hope that Jica and the Philippines continue to work in unity for a safe, stable, and secure future,” Jica’s chief representative in the Philippines Eigo Azukizawa said in a separate statement.

Jica’s Philippine office said that with additional cold chain logistics support, its grant will reach a bigger 885 million yen (about P392.5 million).

In 2020, Japan provided a 2-billion-yen grant so the DOH can buy medical equipment and beef up health defenses amid the prolonged fight against the pandemic. Last year, it extended another 687-million-yen grant to the DOH also under its COVID-19 crisis response emergency support.

Japan was the Philippines’ top source of official development assistance (ODA), which included concessional loans and grants.

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