Working adults 40 years old and above who belong to the A4 category, will get priority in the government's COVID-19 immunization program, Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said Sunday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque on Friday announced that the A4 category now includes all government and private workers, informal sector workers, and those who work in private households who need to physically report to work.
Vega, in an interview with Dobol B TV, said the government is expediting inoculation for A1 to A3 category groups as they prepare for the vaccination of economic frontliners (A4).
“This June, we will speed up [vaccinating] A1 to A3 groups. They have special lanes. These will not be removed from vaccination centers even as they slowly vaccinate A4. Those aged 40 [and above] will be prioritized in the working group since they are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19” Vega said.
Vega said they are allocating most vaccines to high-risk areas such as the NCR Plus bubble (National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal), Cagayan Valley, Cordillera Administrative Region, Western Visayas, Cebu, Davao and Northern Mindanao.
More than 3,000 inoculation centers were set up in the Philippines so far, Vega said. He also noted that once bigger vaccination sites open, more vaccinators will be needed.
According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), at least 35.5 million workers are targeted to be inoculated against COVID-19 after the government simplified the A4 category or the essential workers group.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will deploy more than 50,000 police and fire personnel to provide support and security to the national vaccine rollout that will include the A4 category starting next month.
DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said the deployment and presence of DILG’s uniformed personnel will ensure the smooth rollout of vaccines in the country as it begins mass vaccination efforts with the expected arrival of some 16 million vaccines in the next two months.
Año said the uniformed personnel are not only directed to maintain minimum public health standards (MPHS) in vaccination sites but will also serve as vaccinators or perform their tasks in the vaccination centers as required by the LGUs and the Department of Health.
Of the over 50,000 uniformed personnel to be deployed, he said some 35,415 policemen and women of the Philippine National Police (PNP) will provide security during the transport of vaccines nationwide while 13,840 PNP personnel will be tasked with securing various vaccination areas in the country.
Meanwhile, he said the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) has mobilized 2,390 fire personnel and 356 emergency medical service units (EMS) in 1,150 identified warehouse or cold storage and vaccination sites nationwide. It has also prepositioned 733 fire trucks and 59 ambulances.
“Our DILG uniformed personnel will not only secure the vaccines but those with medical backgrounds will also be assigned to do medical tasks in our vaccination sites all over the country,” he said.
To ensure the safety and health of the uniformed personnel to be deployed, Año said both the PNP and the BFP have continued their respective internal vaccination efforts.
As of May 24, some 14,082 PNP medical front-liners have been inoculated with their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 8,416 of these personnel have received their second dose. Meanwhile, 6,298 BFP personnel have received their first dose and 2,298 of them have received their second dose of vaccine.
In addition, 8,936 personnel from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) nationwide have also been inoculated with their first dose, while 3,750 of them have received their second dose.
On May 18, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. announced that the government is including the A4 cluster of the priority population group in the national vaccine rollout. Included in the A4 group are uniformed personnel.
Also on Sunday, Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said the US-based company Novovax Inc. is interested in putting up a manufacturing plant in the Philippines to develop vaccines against COVID-19.
“This US-based company, Novavax, already has an agreement with Serum Institute in India but it also wants to set up [a vaccine manufacturing plant] in the Philippines,” he said in Filipino.
Another American company, Arcturus Therapeutics, is also studying the possibility of opening a vaccine manufacturing plant in the Philippines to expand their reach in the Asian market, Romualdez said.
Earlier, Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) disclosed it is interested in manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines locally.
MPIC chair Manuel Pangilinan told stockholders Friday the company had a discussion with local vaccine distribution firm Glovax Biotech Corp. regarding the latter’s plan to build a COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing plant in the country.
On Sunday, Senator Francis Tolentino urged the Inter Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to implement the “waterfalls policy” to hasten COVID-19 vaccination.
Under this policy, he said, the IATF could re-allot the vaccines reserved for those belonging to the A1 to A3 categories who refused to get their jabs.
The senator said the number of people who want to get vaccinated outweighs the number of those who are still hesitating to get their jabs.
Also on Sunday, Año warned local government officials involved in unlawful sale of vaccine slots that they were certain to face prosecution.