Senator Franklin Drilon is backing a proposal for a standard international proof of vaccination, which would benefit overseas Filipino workers.
“We must have a document which we can rely on to indicate vaccination, and particularly for our OFWs… I am in favor of some documents internationally accepted which would indicate proof of vaccination because this is for public health. Yes, it is controversial, but it is necessary,” he told ANC’s Headstart.
Drilon said he found out from diplomatic circles that because the European Union did not issue emergency use authorization for vaccines made by China’s Sinovac and Russia’s Gamaleya Institute, individuals who are inoculated with these brands are still required to go through testing and quarantine.
“In so many words, without expressly saying, they do not recognize the efficacy of these brands,” he said.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said last month the Philippines will seek an international agreement that would recognize all vaccines included in the World Health Organization’s emergency use list as sufficient for international travel.
In related developments:
• The Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday it would already start distributing the one million Sinovac vaccines, earlier placed on hold last week, after it received the certificate of analysis from its manufacturer.
Vergeire said they will start distributing the vaccines Wednesday. Last week, the distribution of 1 million Sinovac vaccines was put on hold due to the absence of the certificate of analysis.
• Two party-list lawmakers on Wednesday urged the DOH to allocate more vaccines on local governments with seafarers’ hubs and dormitories.
Reps. Sandro Gonzalez and Macnell Lusotan of Marino party-list group made the call following the Inter-Agency Task Force’s (IATF) decision to reclassify outbound Overseas Filipino Workers, including seafarers, from A4 to A1 in the priority list of the government’s ResBakuna program under IATF Resolution 117 on May 27, 2021.
“The certificate of analysis arrived yesterday, and we can now distribute the Sinovac that we currently have,” said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.
“The manufacturer must always send a certificate of analysis for our government to ensure that the vaccines given to us are of quality and passes our standards so it will be safe and effective for us,” she said.
Another batch of 1.5 million doses of Sinovac is set to arrive on Thursday.
“The allocation will be the same as pronounced by Sec. Galvez. Aside from the NCR Plus 8 areas, these will go to places with high number of COVID cases,” she said.
She said these include areas in Region 3, 4A, 6, 7, and 8 and some places in Mindanao.
The Philippines has so far been able to administer at least 6.9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses as of Sunday.
The government aims to vaccinate at least 58 million of its 108 million population to achieve herd immunity and safely reopen the economy.
“We appreciate IATF for responding to our call of giving priority to our departing OFWs, especially Filipino seafarers, because we believe that they are essential in the country’s, and the world’s, economic recovery. However, the main struggle is the availability of vaccines in areas with higher concentration of seafarers,” Gonzalez, Marino party-list’s first nominee, said.
The group earlier pushed for the prioritization of Filipino seafarers, with Gonzalez having sent a letter to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to expedite their vaccination after learning that several LGUs give precedence to their constituents and leaving transient seafarers behind.
“Once DOH provides additional vaccines that are solely allotted for seafarers, we anticipate that it will help resolve the issue on the distribution of vaccines among residents and migrant workers. We should be reminded that foreign companies prefer vaccinated workers and some other countries only favor specific brands of vaccines,” Lusotan, the group’s second nominee, said.
IATF Resolution 117 covers OFWs whose deployment is scheduled within the next four months from the intended date of their vaccination.
MARINO also supports single-dose vaccines to Pinoy seafarers as soon as they are available since schedules in the shipping industry varies from time to time and short-notice deployments are possible.
“With this movement in their priority status, we are hopeful that more Filipino seafarers will be deployed this year. As of now, we will make use of the available vaccines that we have because our focus is to get them vaccinated immediately, but once the single-dose vaccines are available, we highly encourage the government to prioritize it for our seafarers,” Gonzalez added.