Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Sunday appealed to the government to follow its own guidelines and priority list for the COVID-19 vaccines rollout to avoid the risk of losing supply from the COVAX facility.
Pangilinan noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) has made a statement noting that the Philippine officials’ disregard of the priority list may “impact and jeopardize future deliveries of vaccines through the COVAX facility to the country.
The COVAX facility is a global initiative aimed at ensuring equitable access to the vaccines among beneficiary-nations. The government recently received 487,200 doses of COVID-19 vaccines made by AstraZeneca for the COVAX and is set to receive an additional 38,400 doses today, March 7.
WHO has advised that groups that should be prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccines should include healthcare workers on the frontlines, followed by people over the age of 65, and the rest of the population.
Pangilinan said the government should respect its own guidelines and priority list as specified under Republic Act 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act which Congress rushed to approve in February.
“It is specified in the law certified as urgent and passed by the Senate that health workers, being at the forefront in the fight against the virus, must be first in line,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
He pointed out the law lists the hierarchy on the priority list for those who need to get vaccinated: healthcare workers, senior citizens, people with co-morbidities, frontline personnel including uniformed personnel and teachers, and indigent population Noting the recent spike in COVID-19 cases and the emergence of new strains, Pangilinan said it is imperative for the government to refrain from violating the guidelines and skipping to the head of the queue for the limited COVID-19 vaccine shots.
“In an airplane emergency, aren’t parents told to put on their life vest and oxygen mask first to enable them to look after the children with them?” he pointed out.
“This is the same thing here. Priority are those who can care for the vulnerable and then the vulnerable,” the senator reiterated.
“As they say, those who aren’t on the plane, so to speak are not on the list. That’s why we need to prioritize those who will ensure the health of our people and the economy,” he added.
At the same time, Pangilinan also reminded that health workers should be allowed to decided for themselves which brand of COVID-19 vaccine jab they will be getting.
“Given the critical role they play in caring for others, continued protection for them at work, home, and in the community should be a priority. If we don’t protect and strengthen our front-liners, then all of us at the back will be in danger,” he said.