SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte, Vaccine Czar Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr., and other officials who are leading the country’s National Vaccination Program to consider giving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), including seafarers, the appropriate and acceptable vaccines in their respective countries of destination.
“May ilan sa kanila na nag-aalinlangan na magpabakuna rito sa atin dahil may ibang mga bansa na naghahanap ng specific na brand, bagama’t napatunayan na namang ligtas at epektibo ang mga bakunang mayroon tayo. Hindi natin sila makukumbinsing magpabakuna ngayon kung takot silang hindi naman tanggap sa pupuntahan nilang bansa ang brand na ituturok sa kanila dito sa Pilipinas,” said Go.
Go, who serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, emphasized that these overseas-bound workers must be vaccinated immediately to resume their work abroad and cannot wait for all vaccine brands to be certified as compliant with the regulations of their countries of destination.
“Karamihan din sa kanila ay kailangan nang ma-deploy abroad upang hindi mawala ang trabahong naghihintay sa kanila roon. Hindi na sila makakapag-antay pa ng panahon kung kailan magiging compliant na ang anumang brand ng bakuna sa iba’t ibang bansang pupuntahan nila,” explained Go.
“Kaya kung maaari, mag-allocate tayo ng bakuna na angkop para sa kanila na tanggap sa kanilang countries of destination. This must be done in compliance with requirements for vaccines coming from COVAX facility, as well as our own vaccine prioritization order,” he added.
Go also shared that around ten million vaccines are set to arrive in the country next month, giving the government sufficient supply to allocate appropriate vaccines for OFWs and other groups that require specific brands once the vaccine rollout reaches A4 and A5 categories. OFWs scheduled to be deployed within two months are already included in the A4 category as stated in the latest IATF guidelines.
“Inaasahan naman nating may humigit-kumulang na 10 milyong bakuna na darating ngayong Hunyo. Kaya kung ano ‘yung mga brand na angkop sa kondisyon o pangangailangan ng bawat sektor, tulad ng OFWs, ay dapat ma-allocate na nang maayos,” he said.
Go is also encouraging OFWs to support the National Vaccine Rollout—with an assurance that their concerns are being considered.
Go saidthose belonging in the A1, A2, and A3 categories can already be vaccinated, while the rest who are part of the A4 category can be vaccinated soon once supplies are sufficient to cater to the bigger population.
“Sa ating OFWs, kapag dumami na po ang supply at nailatag na ang mga mekanismo upang maibigay sa inyo ang klase ng bakuna na kailangan ninyo, ipapakita n’yo na lang ang inyong passport at ibang dokumento bilang pruweba na pasok kayo sa ‘OFWs to be deployed immediately’ na nabibilang sa A4 category,” he said.
According to data from the National Task Force Against COVID-19, a total of 4,097,425 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered either as first or second dose throughout the country as of May 22.
Meanwhile, 83.96% or 1,303,415 frontline healthcare workers in the country belonging to the A1 category have been vaccinated. A total of 1,032,104 senior citizens have also received their first dose of vaccine against COVID-19, while total of 9,789 frontline personnel in essential sectors both in public and private sectors have received their first dose of the vaccine.
As of May 23, a total of 8,279,050 doses of vaccines arrived in the Philippines since the start of the vaccination program. These are comprised of 5,500,000 Sinovac, 2,556,000 Astrazeneca, 30,000 Gamaleya, and 193,050 doses of Pfizer vaccines. Furthermore, 93.2% of the vaccines were already distributed to the different regions and implementing units of the national vaccination program.
While he supports President Rodrigo Duterte’s instruction to prioritize poor and indigent groups for the Pfizer vaccines, Go said that OFWs needing a certain brand of vaccine for their immediate deployment should also be accommodated.
“Sang-ayon din naman ako sa unang sinabi ni PRRD na unahin ang mga mahihirap at indigents na nasa A5 category sa dapat makatanggap ng Pfizer. Compliant ito sa COVAX facility guidelines ng priority groups na dapat mabakunahan,” said Go, adding that he has already discussed the matter with Vaccine czar Galvez.
As the country accelerates the vaccine rollout, Go, then, assured that the government is taking into consideration the needs of all Filipinos in order to secure their lives as well as their livelihoods.
“Importante po ito dahil hindi lang kalusugan ang gusto nating proteksyunan, kundi pati rin ang trabaho at kabuhayan ng ating mga kababayan. Kaysa pag-agawan pa ang mga bakuna, tulad ng Pfizer, ibigay na lang natin sa tunay na nangangailangan nito,” he said.