Health frontliners before ‘influencers’ in vaccine priority, rules NITAG

Published March 2, 2021, 3:41 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

Health frontliners will get vaccine priority over the so-called “influencers” in the country.

(JANSEN ROMERO / MANILA BULLETIN)

A proposal to set aside 50 coronavirus vaccine shots for the country’s “influencers” has been rejected by a government task group assigned in charge of the immunization program.

The interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) for COVID-19 Vaccine, turned down the proposal made by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) for the vaccination of these influencers and ruled that medical frontliners must remain priority recipients of the vaccines, Roque said.

The proposed 50 influencers included President Duterte, several Cabinet members, lawmakers, local government officials, and celebrities.

“Tatapatin ko kayo, kami sa IATF ay nag-propose na mga 50 na bakuna ireserba para doon sa tinatawag na influencers na mapaigting natin ang ating vaccine confidence. Hindi sumang-ayon ang I-NITAG (I’ll be honest with you. The IATF proposed that 50 vaccines should be reserved for the influencers to enhance vaccine confidence. The I-NITAG did not agree),” Roque said during a televised press briefing Tuesday, March 2.

Roque noted that the task group was opposed to letting people other than health frontliners to get ahead of the vaccination line. 

“Ang desisyon talaga ‘yung paunang nakukuha natin ibigay natin sa medical frontliners. (The decision was to give the early vaccine supply to the medical frontliners),” he said.

The government has started the vaccination campaign Monday, March 1, a day after the delivery of the first batch of Sinovac vaccines. The country’s health frontliners are first on the government’s list of vaccine recipients, followed by senior citizens, poor and vulnerable sectors, and essential workers.

Asked about the list of influencers, Roque admitted that President Duterte is supposed to be included for early vaccination.

“Nandyan ‘yung mga kalihim, iilang mga kongresista, mayroon mga senador, mayroon mga media personalities pati nga movie personalities mayroon sana kaya lang hindi na-approve (There are Secretaries, some congressmen and senators, media personalities and even movie personalties but the proposal was not approved),” he added.

When asked to identify some prominent influencers who were supposed to be vaccinated early, Roque said they did not submit the names of the influencers during the discussion.

“Wala pang listahan ng 50. Ang hinihingi lang sana namin noon IATF meeting ‘Please give us 50 shots for influencers pero wala pa kami sinumite na mga pangalan (There was no list of 50 influencers yet. What we asked during the IATF meeting was ‘Please give us 50 shots for influencers’ but we did not yet submit the names),” he said.

When the NITAG rejected the proposal, Roque noted that the IATF no longer argued with the expert panel on the matter.  He said they understood that health professionals must be vaccinated first since they are battling the COVID-19 on the front lines.

So far, Roque said only three top government officials, namely vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., testing czar Vince Dizon and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chair Benhur Abalos, were given the green light for vaccination. The three public servants were among those first recipients of the Sinovac vaccines during Monday’s immunization rollout.  

“Now we need to get specific approvals for those who are not medical frontliners for vaccination,” Roque said.

 
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