The government will begin to inoculate essential workers and indigent Filipinos against the coronavirus once the COVID-19 vaccine supply in the country steadies sometime in June, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. said Tuesday.
This developed as the government is proposing to make COVID-19 vaccination a requirement for poor Filipinos before getting financial aid from the government, especially under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.
In a “24 Oras” report, Galvez said the Cabinet has approved the expansion of the COVID-19 vaccination program to persons belonging to the A4 and A5 priority groups.
“What we are planning is from warehouse, it will go directly to the warehouse of the LGU. That’s why we are asking the LGUs for them to have professional third-party provider,” Galvez said.
“There must be cold chain, especially Pfizer, because it’s difficult to handle. With just a small mistake, there will be wastage. That’s why we need professional handler,” he added.
Government also plans to appoint vaccine security and safety officers after reports of accidents involving COVID-19 vaccines, the Department of Health said.
“What we discussed with the vaccine czar is we will have vaccine security and safety officers at different levels to see what else needs to be done,” Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said in an interview on Balitanghali.
Last week, a Department of Agriculture service boat carrying COVID-19 vaccines capsized in Quezon after hitting a concrete post. Despite the accident, the vaccines remained in good condition as they were wrapped in two layers of plastic.
Roque said many Filipinos, especially 4Ps beneficiaries, would benefit from the vaccination program because they would be protected from the virus and avail cash aid without difficulty.
Earlier, the Department of Social Welfare and Development had urged the public, especially 4Ps beneficiaries, to comply with the government’s on-going vaccination program against COVID 19.
Roque said this could also be applied to future pandemic cash aid the government may distribute under the proposed Bayanihan 3 law.
The spokesman clarified that vaccination would still remain voluntary, but it would become a condition if they wanted to get cash aid.
“If there is future cash aid to be distributed, maybe beneficiaries can also be asked to be vaccinated before getting their aid so that many more people will get COVID-19 shots,” he said.
Roque reiterated that vaccination would remain voluntary, adding “we’re just making vaccination as a condition if they want to receive their aid.”
The Chief Executive said the DILG could also ask the assistance of the Philippine National Police to ensure the proper handling of COVID-19 vaccines.
“(Interior) Secretary (Eduardo) Ano can use the police. There’s always a third person or a second guy to see to it that itong chain of events must be followed and there’s no faltering as it would affect the integrity of the vaccines,” he said.
It was also revealed during a public briefing of Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire that some LGUs are using food cold storage refrigerators and ice plants to store COVID-19 vaccines.
Cabotaje said vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. ordered the use of military assets in transporting vaccines to ensure their safety.
The government aims to vaccinate around 50 million in COVID-19 hotspots to achieve herd immunity. Only 2.2 million people so far have been inoculated as of May 15.
The Philippines has expressed its interest to the United States government to be one of the beneficiaries of its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine donations.
In a previous Palace briefing, National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) deputy chief implementer Vivencio Dizon said the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. was in talks with key US government officials for the vaccine donations.
“In the next few weeks, we will get (an) update on this. But according to Ambassador (Jose Manuel) ‘Babes’ (Romualdez), the US government had a ‘very positive’ response about our request, especially for the AstraZeneca vaccines that have not been used in America,” he said.
Dizon added there were other countries that also requested to get a share from the COVID-19 vaccine donations from the US government.
President Joe Biden announced that the US would send an initial 20 million doses of vaccines to help other countries in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the Philippines, 2.92 million doses of COVID-19 jabs were given, with less than a percentage of the population finishing the two doses of vaccines.
In other developments:
* The President has expressed support to the proposal to start the vaccination of poor Filipinos against the coronavirus disease 2019, after Galvez Jr. told Duterte on Monday night that COVID-19 inoculation among the indigent population should begin “as soon as possible.” Duterte agreed with Galvez and said the government might opt to vaccinate the poor within their respective communities.
* The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases is set to discuss this week the prioritization of students in the country’s vaccination program, Commission on Higher Education Chairman J. Prospero de Vera III said Tuesday. De Vera said this was also to consider the pandemic’s impact on the students’ mental health after being forced to continue their studies under a remote learning arrangement.
* A bill has been filed at the House of Representatives proposing that dentists and medical technologists be deployed as COVID-19 vaccinators. House Bill 9354, filed by Reps. Angelina Tan of Quezon, Christopher Belmonte of Quezon City and Stella Quimbo of Marikina City, amends Republic Act 11525 or the “COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act,” which designates doctors and medical professionals, duly trained pharmacists, and midwives as administrators of vaccines.