Local chief executives nationwide are now included as among priority groups, having been classified as essential workers, for the COVID-19 vaccine jab after authorities approved their request to be included in the national government list of primary concern.
Covered by the approval by the Inter-Agency Task Force are 1,634 provincial governors, city and town mayors as well as 42,046 barangay chairmen, according to Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia, National President of the League of Cities of the Philippines.
In his statement, Leonardia saluted Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing for the quick response following the former’s appeal last weekend.
“The rationale, among others, is that the LCEs are in reality also frontliners in the fight against COVID-19. The exposure and risks they encounter on a day-to-day basis as they serve their constituents are also very high,” Leonardia said.
“We are sure this development will inspire and encourage our LCEs to even work harder and more effectively in the implementation of our COVID-19 program, especially now that we are accelerating our efforts to vaccinate as many of our people and as fast as possible,” he added.
Meanwhile, an OCTA Research Group expert on Thursday recommended to the national government to prioritize the vaccination rollout in the National Capital Region.
Dr. Guido David, in an interview on Super Radyo dzBB, pointed out that NCR, considered as the center of the pandemic, affected the situation of the entire country.
“Especially that our vaccination rollout is limited, we would like to recommend prioritizing the NCR since this is the center of the pandemic,” said David.
David said the coronavirus would not spread if around 7 or 8 million Metro Manila residents, as well as the residents from nearby regions like Calabarzon and Central Luzon, have been vaccinated.
With this, herd immunity can be reached in areas of concern, he added.
‘All die waiting’
Sen. Panfilo Lacson warned unless some drastic and innovative steps were undertaken, “we might all die waiting” for the vaccines for COVID-19, which had been delayed due to over regulation in its procurement.
He said both the government and the public should be blamed for the spike in the coronavirus cases although the Philippines has been into quarantine for more than a year.
“Both, although the government should have a bigger share of the blame. If we did not over regulate in the procurement of vaccines. because we have available funds from approved loans that the Department of Finance, having the foresight to anticipate the ‘crowding’ took the initiative to negotiate as early as March or April last year. Such waste,” Lacson said.
He said Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez as early as last year kept repeating that there was money available for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
“That being said, the problem lies with the concerned agencies in charge. Even the private sector and eventually the LGUs, not having the patience to wait for government action, took it upon themselves to procure vaccines for their employees, even offering 50 percent of their vaccine purchases to the government,” he said.
For his part, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines might help increase the confidence of over 69,000 businesses that remained close since the pandemic started to seek assistance and resume operations.
“With all the recovery initiatives that the government rolled-out, we hope to enliven the economy, create more economic activities and bring back the jobs lost (during pandemic),” he said.
According to the latest Impact Assessment Survey na conducted by the DTI, there were about 34.2 percent of businesses that stopped during the few months in pandemic. This dropped to around 10 percent in October and to 5 percent in November 2020. There are about 1.5 million registered businesses active before the pandemic struck.
“Our latest figure this March (2021) showed another slight reduction to about 4.6 percent. So, slowly, bit by bit, the number of closed businesses are dropping. This means that many of those that have closed have opened already,” Lopez said.
He added the government efforts to revive the economy greatly contributed to the resurgence of economic activities and the opening of previously closed sectors.
The Philippines remains hopeful it will be able to sign an agreement for a supply of coronavirus vaccines from American drugmaker Johnson & Johnson this week or the next, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said Thursday.
“We are finalizing the language of the Johnson & Johnson [agreement] and hopefully we’ll have the signing this week or next week,” he told CNN-Philippines in a mix of English and Filipino.
Galvez also said the single-dose jab developed by Janssen, Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical arm, could be included in the portfolio of vaccines that will be donated to the country by the COVAX Facility, a global initiative for equitable vaccine access.