The Department of Health (DOH) defended the inclusion of local chief executives in the A1 priority group for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination program.
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the move was agreed by both the members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG).
The A1 priority group originally were frontline workers in health facilities. Currently, the government has also started the vaccination for senior citizens (A2 priority group), and adults with comorbidities (A3 priority group).
“Tiningnan natin yung konsiderasyon na ito pong ating (We looked at this consideration that our) local chief executives: the governors, the mayors of cities and municipal mayors are also frequently exposed to COVID because they are part of the response teams,” said Vergeire in a press briefing on Monday, May 17.
“Sila po yung umiikot sa kani-kanilang mga barangay para ma check kung maayos po yung response natin dito po sa pandemyang ito (They are the ones who go around their respective barangays to check if our response to this pandemic is good),” she added.
Vergeire also believes that “providing or allowing the local chief executives to be vaccinated can help boost the vaccine confidence, especially among their constituents.”
The DOH spokesperson also said that the vaccine supply situation is now different compared last March – when the Philippines was just starting off its vaccination program.
The DOH last March urged government officials to respect the prioritization for vaccine recipients as there were reports then of those jumping the line to receive the COVID-19 jabs.
“That is very different because during that time, nung tayo ay nagbabakuna ng healthcare workers, kakaunti lang talaga ang doses natin ng bakuna at gustong-gusto po natin talaga na mabigyan muna lahat ng ating healthcare workers kaya hindi muna tayo nagsama ng ibang priority sectors (That is very different because during that time, when we were vaccinating healthcare workers, we only had very few doses of vaccines. We really wanted to give those doses to all our healthcare workers first so we didn’t include other priority sectors then),” explained Vergeire.
“Pero ngayon na ang bakuna natin ay medyo sufficient na ay maari na po tayong magbakuna nung ibang prioridad din naman po at frequently expose na populasyon (But now that our vaccine supply is quite sufficient, we can inoculate other priority sectors and frequently exposed population),” she added.
Meanwhile, Vergeire urged the public to get vaccinated when it’s their turn.
“Kapag hindi pa po kayo parte ng ating priority sectors na binabakunahan ngayon, antayin lang po natin. Magkakaroon din po tayo at malapit na po iyang simultaneous vaccination to expand to A4 to A5 (If you are not yet part of the priority sectors that are being vaccinated now, you just have to wait. The vaccination program will soon expand to A4 to A5 [priority sectors]),” she said.
“Kailangan lang po natin mag-antay. Unahin yung vulnerables natin bago po tayo pumunta sa ating facilities for vaccination. Ang isang issue po natin dyan, kapag pumupnta kayo dyan tapos hindi naman kayo mababakunahan, iniexpose nyo pa po yung sarili nyo sa maraming tao at baka kayo ay magkasakit pa (We just have to wait. We should prioritize our vulnerable population first. One of the [safety] issues is when you go there and it’s not yet your scheduled date, you are exposing yourself to a lot of people and you might get sick),” she added.