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Palace defends vaccine priority for local execs
Under Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases Resolution No. 115-B, all 1,600 governors and mayors will be included in priority group A1.5 regardless of their respective local government unit’s risk classification.
Miguel De Guzman, file

Palace defends vaccine priority for local execs

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - May 18, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday defended the pandemic task force’s decision to place local executives in priority group A1.5, just below health workers in the government’s inoculation program.

Under Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) Resolution No. 115-B, all 1,600 governors and mayors will be included in priority group A1.5 regardless of their respective local government unit’s risk classification.

Previously, local chief executives were classified as A4 or frontline personnel – behind health workers (A1), elderly (A2) and persons with comorbidities or health risks (A3) – but the League of Provinces of the Philippines appealed for the inclusion of all local officials in the A1.5 category.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said that though local officials may not be doctors, “they are equally frontliners because all our strategies are handled by local officials.”

“Mayors and governors are enforcing the prevention, detection, isolation, treatment and rehabilitation, the cornerstone of our COVID program. They implement localized lockdowns, they implement the vaccination and they are really our instruments in the fight against COVID-19,” Roque explained.

He also disputed the claim of public health advocate Dr. Tony Leachon that the Philippines cannot achieve herd immunity by December at the current rate of vaccination.

“It has always been the plan that once our supply increases, we will open the vaccination to the A4 and A5. What we will do is we will vaccinate the A4 and A5 simultaneously and it will start in June, if not even earlier, possibly within the last week of May. Let’s see,” he added.

Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire also agreed with the inclusion, saying that local executives are frequently exposed to the virus as part of their job in the government’s COVID-response team.

“They are going around the barangays to check and ensure proper response in this pandemic. That is why the IATF decided, in concurrence with the NITAG (National Immunization Technical Advisory Group), to vaccinate them,” Vergeire said in Filipino.

With more vaccines now available, Vergeire said local executives can already be included in the priority list. She added that by allowing the inoculation of local officials, vaccine confidence among their constituents would also be boosted.

Vergeire also cautioned people who are not part of the priority sectors from going to vaccination sites in an attempt to get inoculated.

“One issue we have is if you go there and you are not vaccinated, you are exposing yourself to many people and you may get sick. So it would be better to wait for your turn,” she said.

Vergeire assured the public that there are sufficient vaccines for the government to expand vaccination to other priority groups.

To achieve herd immunity, the government aims to inoculate 25 million people by the end of the third quarter. As of May 15, more than 2.245 million Filipinos have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 714,432 individuals have been given their second shot. – Mayen Jaymalin

COVID-19 VACCINE
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