Farmers not priority for COVID-19 vaccine – DA

Published December 21, 2020, 5:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Agriculture Secretary William Dar admitted that farmers are not a priority in the government-led distribution of COVID-19 vaccine, but vowed to look for vaccines for the agriculture sector where players are also considered frontliners.

               “The priority right now are frontliners [but] mostly medical, soldiers, police, and senior citizens,” Dar said when asked in a virtual briefing if farmers will also receive the vaccine once the government finally sealed a deal with providers.

Farm workers thresh rice during a harvest, in the barangay of Palattao, in Naguilian, Isabela province, the Philippines. Photographer: Nana Buxani/Bloomberg file photo

               Dar assured that the Department of Agriculture (DA) will continuously coordinate with the private sector, mentioning Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, so that farmers will also be given priority in future mass COVID-19 vaccination.

               Since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, DA has repetitively appealed to local government units (LGU) to consider farmers, fishermen, and other personnel, directly and indirectly, working in food production as COVID-19 frontliners.

               This, so that they should be allowed entry through checkpoints amid strict lockdown restrictions.

              In the end, despite logistical issues, farmers and fishermen were still able to deliver, saving the Philippines from the risk of facing a food shortage amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

              Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that from July to September, farm sector’s production grew by 0.7 percent. 

              During the quarter, increases in production were noted for crops and fisheries, while livestock and poultry posted reductions in outputs. 

              At current prices, the value of agricultural production grew by 4.1 percent to P404.6 billion from the previous year’s level of P388.5 billion.

             As the country works towards securing vaccines for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) stressed that the distribution of these vaccines must be made equitable and accessible to everyone, an earlier report in Manila Bulletin showed.

             CHR Commissioner Gwen Pimentel-Gana said this a few weeks after developed countries such as the United States and United Kingdom and their pharmaceutical companies – Pfizer, Moderna, and Astra Zeneca – have already announced their success with the vaccines against the COVID-19 pandemic, which are now awaiting final stage trials.

             Pimentel-Gana emphasized that the preservation of life is a fundamental human right, so global leaders must address the distribution with “ethical solutions” that reflect the principles of human rights, universality, and equity.

             She said that every human being must be given the vaccine regardless of their race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.

             While developed countries will undoubtedly prioritize vaccinating their citizens, the CHR said that they should also keep in mind that less-developed countries also need their help.

            On Friday, Philippine Ambassador to the US Babes Romualdez said two more US biotech companies have expressed willingness to supply the Philippines with COVID-19 vaccines. These are Moderna and Arcturus.