1.76 million health workers will be first to get COVID-19 vaccines

1.76 million health workers will be first to get COVID-19 vaccines
Medical workers screen patients for possible COVID-19 before admission at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) in Quezon City on April 18, 2020.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 3:19 p.m.) — Frontline health workers in the private and public sectors will be the first to receive coronavirus vaccines once they become available.

The government is eyeing to inoculate around 24.7 million Filipinos in the first part of the vaccination program against COVID-19, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said in a briefing Monday. 

Roque said 1.76 million health workers are first in the list of priority beneficiaries for COVID-19 vaccination. 

These include those working in public and private facilities (612,975); other public health workers in rural, city and provincial health offices and contact tracers (609,982); barangay health workers (414,640) and other frontliners in the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Education, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and Bureau of Corrections.

Indigent senior citizens, pegged at around 3.8 million, are the second priority. Meanwhile, the remaining population of senior citizen (around 5.7 million) are the third priority group for the immunization. 

“All senior citizens are prioritized because we know that grandfathers and grandmothers are included in the vulnerable group,” Roque said.

The 12.9 million remaining members of the indigent population are fourth in the list of COVID-19 vaccine first takers.

They were followed by the 525,523 state forces. These include personnel from the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Fire Protection and Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit.

Lower figure than in November

The priority beneficiaries accounted for nearly 23% of the country’s projected population of more than 108 million.

The figure presented by Roque Monday was lower than the number given by coronavirus vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., who said last month that 35 million people would be prioritized once approved COVID-19 vaccines arrive in the country. 

The Philippines will employ a geographical and sectoral strategy for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

In terms of locations, COVID-19 hotspots such as Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Davao will be prioritized in the deployment of these critical goods. 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in an interview on ANC's "Headstart" that the country—“in a best case scenario”—may start inoculating citizens "about the end of the first quarter of 2021 or about the start of second quarter of next year."

To speed up the local approval of COVID-19 vaccines, President Rodrigo Duterte signed an order giving the country's Food and Drug Administration the power to issue emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. 

The government is aiming to vaccinate 60 to 70 million people against the infection in three to five years to achieve herd immunity.

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