FINALLY, it has begun. After several weeks of hope and anticipation, the much-touted COVID-19 vaccines to shield humanity against the worldwide pandemic are slowly trickling in and reaching the shores of our country.
Just this Thursday, here in the city, the Department of Health/Center for Health Development-Cordillera Administrative Region received its share of 7,800 doses of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines to be distributed to the various hospital facilities in the Cordillera Region. And just the other day, Friday, a ceremonial vaccination program was conducted at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) park with no less than its Medical Center Chief, Dr. Ricardo B. Ruñez, along with other volunteer rank and file employees of the hospital being the first recipients of the said vaccine.
The 7,800 doses of the vaccine shared to the region come from the first batch of 600,000 doses of the Sinovac Biotech CoronaVac which arrived in the country last Sunday from China. The national government has immediately begun distributing the said vaccines to the various hospitals as well as conducting a ceremonial inoculation in Manila with nurses and doctors, as well as several top government officials, being the recipients.
Apart from the arrival of the vaccines from China, the country also received last Thursday, 487,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine thru the COVAX facility, a global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines led by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and others, and which will be distributed again to the various hospitals the next day, according to the country’s testing czar Vince Dizon, President of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).
So this is where we stand at the moment. Here in the City of Baguio the Punong Barangays recently had a meeting where the Health Services Office (HSO) of the city government thru Dra. Weng Galpo and Dra. Cecilia Brilliantes once again reiterated the necessity of fast-tracking the listing of residents of the city for the scheduled vaccination program in the locality.
In that meeting, it came to the observation of the concerned barangay officials, more particularly LIGA President and ex-officio City Councilor Michael Lawana that in the list of priority population groups identified by the Interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (iNiTAG) for vaccination it would appear they (Barangay Officials) have not been listed either in priority A1, A2, A3 which include among others barangay health workers, janitors, nursing aides, and students.
Councilor Lawana pointed out that Barangay Officials who remain at the frontlines almost 24/7 in the communities where they serve should also be given the highest priority in the list of priority population groups for vaccination.
For a better appreciation of this observation here is the full list of priority population groups for vaccination as identified by iNiTAG: A1: Frontline workers in health facilities both national and local, private and public, health professionals and non-professionals like students, nursing aides, janitors, barangay health workers, etc; A2: Senior citizens aged 60 years old and above; A3: Persons with comorbidities not otherwise included in the preceding categories; A4: Frontline personnel in essential sectors including uniformed personnel and those in working sectors identified by the IATF as essential during the Enhanced Community Quarantine; A5: Indigent population not otherwise included in the preceding categories; B1: Teachers, Social workers; B2: Other government workers; B3: Other essential workers; B4: Socio-demographic groups at significantly higher risk other than senior citizens and indigenous people; B5: Overseas Filipino Workers; B6: Other remaining workforce; C: Rest of the Filipino population not otherwise included in the above groups.
Apparently, this must be rectified by the iNiTAG so that it will accurately reflect the status of barangay officials as vital frontliners who should also be given top priority in the said vaccination list.