Robredo proposes identifying subgroups in vaccine priority list
Makati residents receive the first dose of the Sinovac vaccine at the Makati Coliseum yesterday.
Krizjohn Rosales

Robredo proposes identifying subgroups in vaccine priority list

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - April 11, 2021 - 1:47pm

MANILA, Philippines — The national government's coronavirus task force should consider specifying more subgroups of essential workers and other vulnerable groups within the priority list of its national vaccination program, Vice President Leni Robredo said. 

As it currently stands, the government's inoculation efforts are focused on frontline workers in health facilities for vaccination group A1. Next in line are senior citizens (A2), followed by persons with comorbidities (A3), frontline personnel in essential sectors (A4) and the indigent population (A5).

Speaking on her weekly radio show Sunday morning, the vice president said that drivers, sellers, and other essential workers should be included as a subgroup within the A3 vaccination line. 

"My suggestion is that tapping people [for vaccination] should be more proactive, especially for our people who are less than 60-years-old but who are not capable of working from home. Because those are the people who face a lot of [coronavirus] exposure...They're the ones who are more vulnerable [and] exposed at the community level," Robredo said in mixed Filipino and English. 

"If only the people giving out vaccines had a more proactive in inviting people who can't work from home or the ones whose jobs aren't done at home. There should be volunteers helping out with registering [especially] for those people not capable of registering online."  

This comes after the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases approved a recommendation endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte himself to classify local chief executives in critical or high-risk areas as healthcare frontliners, allowing them to be among the first to receive their coronavirus jabs. 

READ: CHR: VIPs who skipped vaccination line ‘selfishly’ deprived healthcare workers of jabs

There have also been reports of lawmakers and other high-profile officials skipping the line for coronavirus inoculation.

"The main reason for this is we consider them very essential frontliners. In a war, the mayors and governors are our commanders in these frontlines. They are the ones we rely on in the enforcement of the minimum health standards, for contact tracing, for the massive vaccination effort...it is very important that we recognize this," NTF deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon said. 

Distribution of 'ayuda' 

The vice president also pointed out the delays in cash or material aid amid the second Enhanced Community Quarantine. 

"There should already be a system for distribution [because] it's like we never learned how to fix this. These are the same problems we faced last year. Especially during a pandemic, if the aid distribution isn't orderly, the virus can even spread in the long lines," Robredo said. 

"I can't blame barangay for the low allocation given to them either...and they can't give everyone in need." 

Some 22.9 million poor Filipinos making up 80% of the National Economic and Development Authority's estimated low-income population within the NCR+ bubble are set to receive aid from the government. 

Each resident will be receiving P1,000 in kind or cash,  with a limit of P4,000 per household. Progressive groups call the aid grossly insufficient. 

Mass testing 

Robredo on her radio show also reiterated calls for mass testing after the National Task Force Against COVID-19 rejected the practice anew, saying testing efforts were "weak" because many still didn't want to get tested or could not afford testing to begin with. 

To recall, Dizon at a press conference earlier this week insisted that the government cannot test everyone in the country, which is neither what mass testing actually means nor what the public is even expecting it to do. 

"When we say mass testing, we mean more targeted testing where areas with higher transmission should have more testing...people there should have better access to testing," Robredo said. 

"There's already mistrust surrounding the vaccine, but if there are any lapses in communication, that will only worsen the public's fear. So that should be fixed on our part too, how vaccine [and testing] fears are addressed and communicated to people." 

As of the health department's latest tally issued Saturday afternoon, 190,245 of the country's 853,209 coronavirus infections are still classified as active cases. 

The Philippines is under its second enhanced community quarantine since it was first hoisted 390 days ago, good for the longest lockdown in the world. 

Palace spokesperson Harry Roque is set to announce the quarantine status for the coming week later Sunday, according to reports. 

READ: Testing czar Dizon slammed for rejection of mass testing one year into pandemic

with a report from Gaea Katreena Cabico and News5 

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