Filipino health care worker hopes COVID-19 vaccines will revive overseas job dream

November 24, 2020 - 10:55 AM
Newly graduate nurses take their oath during an oath taking ceremony of professional nurses inside a mall in Manila September 20, 2010. (Reuters/Romeo Ranoco/File Photo)

MANILA — Philippine health care worker Vince Umali received a blow when the coronavirus pandemic derailed his plan to work in Canada this year, but he hopes to revive his dream of an overseas job after breakthroughs in the race to develop COVID-19 vaccines.

Thousands of health care workers usually leave the country each year in search of better-paid jobs in countries like the United States and Canada, as well as in the Middle East.

But in April the government barred nurses, doctors and other medical workers from leaving, saying they were needed to fight a coronavirus crisis at home.

“I hope the vaccine could be released by the first quarter of next year so my plan of being able to work abroad would be more feasible,” said Umali, 26, who works as an occupational therapist in a private hospital.

Sparking global hope, pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc has applied to U.S. health regulators for emergency use authorization after final trials showed its vaccine candidate was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Romualdez said Pfizer had assured supply of its vaccine to his country once approved for distribution.

Moderna Inc is expected to be the next company to seek a U.S. emergency use nod for a COVID-19 vaccine after similarly encouraging results of late-stage trials.

“It is very nice to know, even if technically the virus is still there, at least moving from one place to another or one country to another would be much easier,” said Umali.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ended the overseas travel ban for Philippine health workers, the labor minister said on Saturday, renewing the hopes of workers, although only 5,000 will be allowed to leave each year.

For Umali, the lure of working overseas is clear.

Working at home means an eight-to-nine-hour day for 20,000 pesos ($414) a month, while in Canada he said he could get paid get paid up to C$60 ($45) an hour for a six-to-seven-hour day. —Reporting by Adrian Portugal; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Christian Schmollinger