Sen. Joel Villanueva on Wednesday called on the intergency task force handling the COVID-19 pandemic to start coming up with a “clear-cut” masterlist of the beneficiaries of the governement’s COVID-19 immunization program.
Villanueva said this would prevent any problems in the selection of those who who will be in the priority list for the inoculaton given the limited supplies of the coronavirus vaccines.
“The IATF (Interagency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) should start drawing up guidelines as early as now so that we can maximize the distribution of the vaccines given the limited supply. A person could easily fall under two and more categories, so there must be a clear set of guidelines on this,” he said in hs statement.
“We do not want overlaps in the priority list. Given the limited supply, we must ensure that each dose goes to the rightful beneficiary,” he reiterated.
The government plans to begin the immunization program in late February, with the aim of vaccinating 50 million of 70 million Filipinos within this year.
Its initial priority list was comprised of frontline health workers, indigent elderly and other remaining senior citizens, remaining indigent Filipinos (12.9 million), and uniformed personnel.
The IATF later expanded its target beneficiaries to include essential workers, such as those in transportation, public utility, seafarers and overseas Filipino workers.
Villanueva said the IATF would have to identify that additional beneficiaries as he noted that about 25 percent or about 10 million of the country’s 39.8 million employed workers were identified in the October, 2020 Labor Force Survey as being part of “elementary occupations.”
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) says they are those involved in unskilled labor such as “street vendors, cleaners, domestic helpers and farm hands.”
PSA data also shows that about seven million workers are in sales or service occupations.
“While unemployment eased in October to 8.7 percent or about 3.8 million jobless workers, we must understand that the people also stopped looking for work. The slump is getting into the heads of our workers, and the vaccination program will help boost both the confidence of workers and our businesses as well,” said Villanueva, who chairs the Senate labor committee.
“We cannot afford to drop the ball on this. The stakes are too high. Our country’s economic recovery depends largely on this,” he added.