Philippines plans to start vaccinating frontline workers by end-May
A health worker shows syringes filled with Pfizer vaccine as they administer the first dose to those belonging to A1 (medical frontliners), A2 (senior citizens) and A3 (persons with comorbidity) categories during their continuation of vaccination program for San Juaneños at FilOil Flying V Centre (San Juan Arena) on May 12, 2021.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

Philippines plans to start vaccinating frontline workers by end-May

Xave Gregorio (Philstar.com) - May 18, 2021 - 12:30pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 2:48 p.m.) — The Philippines is set to expand its vaccination campaign against COVID-19 to include frontline workers by end-May in a bid to speed up inoculations.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr.'s recommendation for the government to start inoculating frontline workers, including uniformed personnel, according to National Task Force Against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon said Tuesday.

"Inaprubahan na ng ating pangulo ang expansion natin sa economic frontliners at national government frontliners, 'yong tinatawag natin na A4 category, sa mga susunod na linggo," Dizon said in a Malacañang press briefing.

(The president has approved our expansion to include economic frontliners and nationaal government frontliners, what we call the A4 category, in the coming weeks.)

Dizon said Metro Manila, Pampanga, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Batangas, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao — which are the most affected areas by the coronavirus — will be prioritized in the expansion of the vaccine rollout.

Further details will be announced by the Department of Health, he added.

Galvez earlier told Duterte that the government must start giving jabs to frontline workers and the poor as soon as the last week of May to speed up the sluggish pace of the government's vaccination program.

(Considering that we want to speed it up, we must widen our funnel. If we have a small funnel, we won’t be getting that much. So what we’ll do is we will widen our net so that we can expand our target population.)

Galvez said this was also the suggestion of the business sector, other members of Duterte’s Cabinet and the Senate, who are all wary of the possibility of the vaccines spoiling before they are used.

He suggested that jabs from the vaccine sharing platform COVAX be used on people under vaccine priority A5, or the indigent population, while vaccines bought by the government can be used on people under vaccine priority A4, or frontline workers.

The vaccine czar set a target of 500,000 vaccine doses administered per day — a staggering number compared to the current vaccination rate which just breached 120,000 a day last May 15 — so that the areas worst hit by the coronavirus could achieve herd immunity by November 27 or earlier.

Vaccine hesitancy

But vaccine hesitancy is a major roadblock toward this ambitious goal, with only 32% of Filipinos telling private pollster Pulse Asia that they are willing to get the shots, while the rest are worried about its safety.

“Ito po ang nakita nating isang malaking problema, na ‘yong A2 (senior citizens) at ‘yong A3 (people with comorbidities) natin, may mga iba na resistant po, Mr. President. Kaya kailangang-kailangang po mapangaralan natin,” Galvez said.

(We’re seeing this big problem, that senior citizens and people with comorbidities, some of them are resistant, Mr. President. That’s why we really need to educate them.)

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said they will be filming an infomercial on coronavirus vaccines to combat hesitancy.

Roque also floated the idea of requiring vaccination as a condition for the poor to get aid under the conditional cash transfer program or future aid programs.

“Ang dami pong nakikinabang diyan sa programang ‘yan ay pag naisama po natin sa kundisyon na ‘yan, marami pong mababakunahan,” he said.

(A lot of people are benefiting from this program and if we add this condition, a lot of people can get vaccinated.)

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