IATF studying incentives for vaccinated people

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
IATF studying incentives for vaccinated people
In his report to President Rodrigo Duterte last Tuesday, National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. presented a list of suggestions from the private sector to boost vaccination by giving people incentives.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — Incentives intended to encourage more Filipinos to get vaccinated against COVID-19 are now being studied by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

In his report to President Duterte last Tuesday, National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. presented a list of suggestions from the private sector to boost vaccination by giving people incentives.

“It means those who are vaccinated are the only ones who will be allowed to get out, to dine in and be allowed to travel without restrictions,” Galvez told Duterte during the President’s Talk to the People.

He said among the suggestions of the private sector to encourage vaccination are allowing companies the right not to hire unvaccinated job applicants and requiring RT-PCR tests for existing employees who are not vaccinated at their own expense.

The list of suggestions also includes “mandatory vaccines for health care workers, school employees, public transport workers, civil servants, and for 4Ps; mandatory vaccinations for unrestricted access to public transport, travel, restaurants and tourism establishments.”

Galvez, the country’s vaccine czar, said the private sector wants to ramp up vaccination to achieve 1.5 million jabs per day by inoculating the willing in order to achieve a bandwagon effect.

At present, only 388,000 shots are being administered daily.

In the interest of protecting the economy amid the pandemic, the private sector also wants the government to accelerate inoculation in key cities and economic hubs, he said.

Another recommendation to the IATF is to remove capacity restrictions for all public transport and ease curfews as well as prioritizing the safe optional reopening of schools in areas with high vaccination rates.

Galvez said the private sector also called for a unified vaccination, testing and contact tracing data ecosystem.

Over 24 M Filipinos vaccinated

Updating the President on the figures, Galvez said 31.76 percent of the targeted population or over 24 million Filipinos are now fully vaccinated.

To be exact, 24,298,753 Filipinos have already received their full doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

“The Philippines had also administered 52.78 million doses of various vaccines against COVID-19 including 28 million Filipinos who received their first dose of vaccines,” he added.

Galvez said Metro Manila remained the top region with the highest percentage of vaccinated individuals, with 80 percent of its eligible population fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The vaccine czar said the target is to inoculate 1.5 million individuals per day to achieve a “happy Christmas” and reach 70 percent of the target population before the start of the 2022 election period – “meaning before February.”

“Right now supply is not anymore an issue. We have more than 38 million doses in our warehouses,” Galvez told the President, but added that logistics issues in distributing the jabs to the vaccine centers have become a challenge.

Yesterday, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año said the government is ramping up its vaccination drive in the provinces where the inoculation rate is only around 18 to 30 percent.

With 50 to 70 percent as the minimum vaccination rate target for the provinces, Año said officials of his department, DOH, the police and local government units (LGUs) would meet tomorrow to discuss how to intensify the vaccination drive in the countryside.

“On Friday, we’re having a big meeting with selected governors and mayors, together with the regional directors of the DILG, the PNP, the DOH,” he said in an interview with dzBB. “We’ll be giving emphasis on what help they need to ramp up vaccination, because we cannot settle for a high vaccination rate only for the NCR.”

The DILG chief said neighboring provinces of Metro Manila, such as Regions 3 and 4-A, as well as key areas like Regions 7 and 11, need to be prioritized in time for Christmas.

Shuffle vaccines

Duterte, meanwhile, ordered Galvez to shuffle the COVID-19 vaccines distributed to various regions to prevent the public from choosing among vaccine brands.

“I told Secretary Galvez, mix everything. Mix what’s inside the box… don’t be choosy because all vaccines are okay,” he said.

“Don’t choose because I said these (vaccines) are all effective. Maybe you don’t like those from China. Now you want Sinopharm, because we all had Sinopharm here. We were even the last to get it,” he added.?Duterte received his second dose of COVID-19 vaccine by Sinopharm, a China state-owned company, in July.

“The vaccines will benefit our country and help us bring closer to the goal of having a better Christmas,” he said.

But even Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio called on the national government to purchase more of the Western vaccine brands because those produced in China have low acceptability.

Sen. Leila de Lima said the President’s idea to mix various vaccine brands in the rollout so that vaccinees would not have an option to choose is unacceptable.

“The choice of vaccine brand is personal. It cannot be forced by the state in some sort of a lottery, in the same way that it remains a right of everyone to choose whether to be vaccinated or not in the first place,” De Lima said.

This month, the World Health Organization-led COVAX Facility has already delivered 7.3 million doses, which is one of its biggest vaccine donations to the Philippines to date.

The United States also donated 6.4 million Pfizer jabs while Germany gave 884,800 AstraZeneca doses, Galvez said.

Both the US and Germany have committed to donate more in the coming months. – Romina Cabrera, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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