Government officials who were vaccinated against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) ahead of healthcare workers are not cutting the line in the government’s priority list, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. insisted Sunday.
Instead, Galvez said the inoculation of government officials is one way to increase the public’s confidence on the country’s vaccination program and their uptake of COVID-19 vaccines.
“Nakita natin na wala naman gaanong nag-violate. Sa LGU nakita natin bumaba to 13 percent ang uptake ng Sinovac. They wanted to — ‘yung LGUs, mayors, captains — alam nila na once sila ang nauna, the uptake will go as high to 70 to 80 percent (We have seen that there were only a few who violated [the priority list]. In the local government units, we have seen that the uptake of Sinovac vaccines went down to 13 percent. The LGUs, mayors, and captains knew that once they lead [the vaccine rollout], the uptake will go as high to 70 to 80 percent),” Galvez said during the vaccine rollout at the QualiMed Hospital in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
During the vaccine rollout last March 1, several Cabinet officials were among the first to be inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines from China’s Sinovac Biotech.
Among those vaccinated upon the orders of President Duterte were Galvez, testing czar Vince Dizon, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Benhur Abalos, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director Eric Domingo.
Meanwhile, Quezon Province Representative Angelina Tan came under fire for allegedly violating the government’s priority list after she became the first lawmaker to be administered with a COVID-19 vaccine from Sinovac last March 2 at the Veterans Memorial Hospital in Quezon City.
Galvez said that the government remains firm in its commitment to prioritize the vaccination of around 1.7 million healthcare workers by the end of March to April.
He explained that government workers who received the vaccines were actually helping the government to spread awareness on the vaccination program.
“Ang motive is not to cut the line or sapawan ang healthcare workers. Ang ano nila, increase ang uptake (The motive is not to cut the line or be ahead of the healthcare workers. Their [intention] is to increase the uptake),” said Galvez, who earlier vowed to investigate the vaccination of Tan.
Galvez also said that all vaccines which are taken out of the cold storage facility must immediately be used to avoid spoilage.
However, during the early days of the vaccine roll-out, he said only a few healthcare workers were willing to use the China-made Sinovac vaccine so there were a few doses that wete not used for medical frontliners but given to other priorities.
“There seems to be a miscommunication. Kapag nailabas kasi ang bakuna, kailangan maisaksak na agad at hindi na pwede pang ibalik sa warehouse. Kunwari 100 ang inilabas pero 80 lang nagamit, may 20 na tira. Dapat may naka-reserve list para hindi masayang ang bakuna (If the vaccines are taken out [of the storage facility], it shall be administered immediately and you cannot bring it back to the warehouse. For example there are 100 vaccines that were taken out but only 80 were used, there would be an available supply of doses. There should be a reserve list [of vaccinees] so that the vaccines won’t go to waste),” he said.
Last month, the national government released the priority list for its vaccination program which was categorized into three.
On top of the list are:A1. Medical frontliners; A2. Senior citizens; A3. Persons with comorbidities; A4. Frontline personnel in essential sectors; and A5. Indigent population.
Also included in the priority list are B1. Teachers and social workers; B2. Other government workers; B3. Other essential workers; B4. Socio-demographic groups at significantly higher risk other than senior citizens and indigenous people; B5. Overseas Filipino Workers; and B6. Other remaining workforce
Category “C” includes the rest of the Filipino population who are not included in the mentioned groups.