Eyebrows raised over inclusion of local execs in vaccine priority list after Pfizer COVID-19 jab arrival

May 18, 2021 - 12:22 PM
A man is supported by a health worker as he is vaccinated against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) with AstraZeneca vaccine at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, May 17, 2021. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Local officials were suddenly placed ahead of the priority list following the arrival and rollout of the sought after Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines.

Some social media users made these criticisms online after the Palace approved this new adjustment.

Under Resolution No. 115-B the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases released, local executives are now part of the A1.5 priority group of the national government’s COVID-19 vaccine priority list.

The A1 priority group was previously only reserved for health workers and their families.

Previously, the government sector belongs to the Priority Group B. Then, local officials were classified as part of the A4 priority group comprising front-line workers who are non-medical such as uniformed personnel.

With the new resolution, the new vaccine priority groups are:

  • A1 Health workers
  • A1.5 All 1,600 governors and mayors
  • A2 Elderly
  • A3 Persons with comorbidities

Some Filipinos, however, found it suspicious that the reclassification happened after the sought-after US-based Pfizer, which boasts of a high 95% efficacy rate, finally arrived in the Philippines on May 10.

“This is what I have been thinking about. The timing of vaccine arrival. Pfizer is given to those of lower priority but Sinovac for health workers. Let’s not play dumb here,” one Twitter user said.

“So sila ang uubos sa stock na Pfizer? Hahaha. The moves,” another user wrote.

“Ah kasi dumating na ang Pfizer?” another user commented.

Other online users also raised the possibility that more “annexes” will soon be announced to include the local executives’ families ahead of the vulnerable sector.

“So nasa A1.5 priority na ngayon ang mga governors and mayors, expect natin na nasa A1.5.1 na ngayon ang kanilang family members, extended families and workers,” one user said.

“Just in time for Pfizer and Moderna. Don’t be surprised if they will annex ‘A1.6 ‘ for family members of governors and mayors,” another user wrote.

Around 193,050 doses of Pfizer COVID-19 jab arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Terminal 2 before 9 p.m. of May 10.

It is a donation from the World Health Organization-led initiative and not yet a direct purchase by the national government.

The rollout of these vaccines started in the cities of San Juan and Makati on May 12.

‘Instruments to resolve the pandemic’

A group called the League of Cities of the Philippines earlier made the appeal to include the local government officials in the vaccine priority list, citing the importance of local chief executives in the country’s vaccination program.

“Such a move recognizes the important role of LCEs in the success of the country’s vaccination program. We commit to reciprocate the trust and confidence of the IATF to city mayors with more active and responsive vaccination efforts in our respective localities,” LCP national president and Bacolod City Mayor Bing Leonardia said in a statement.

IATF approved their appeal on May 15.

Palace also echoed the same view in defending the task force’s decision to change the priority list anew.

In a briefing on May 17, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that mayors and governors are the “instruments in resolving the pandemic.”

“Ang mga mayor at gobernador ang nagpapatupad po ng Prevention, Detection, Isolation, Treatment and Rehabilitation na cornerstone of our COVID program. Sila po ang nagpapatupad ng localized lockdown,” the Palace spokesman said.

“Sila po ang nagpapatupad ng vaccination. Sila po talaga ang ating instrumento dito sa paglaban natin sa COVID-19. They may not be doctors but they are equally frontliners dahil lahat po ng istratehiya natin ang humaharap po ang mga lokal na opisyales – si mayor at si governor,” he added.