IATF okays COVID-19 booster priority for OFWs set for deployment

The government's pandemic task force approved a plan to give priority for COVID-19 booster shots to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) set for deployment within four months, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez announced on Saturday, November 20.

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, however, has yet to announce an effectivity date.

National Task Force Against COVID-19 spokesperson Restituto Padilla Jr., speaking in a Laging Handa briefing later Saturday morning, said general booster protocols would still be followed.

"If you were vaccinated at least six months ago, that will qualify you for a booster shot. But if you got vaccinated just last month, that doesn't qualify. So you may not be given a booster shot," Padilla said in a mix of Filipino and English.

Padilla said eligible OFWs will be allowed to queue in the priority lane at the vaccination sites offering boosters.

"In order to maintain our competitive advantage, as well as maintain the much-needed livelihood of OFWs as well as seafarers, so they can secure their foreign deployment and contracts, this will be enforced," Padilla added.

So far, the Philippine government has only given the go signal for health workers (A1) and senior citizens (A2) to get boosters by the end of 2021.

OFWs who are set to be deployed within four months are included in Expanded Priority Group A1.

Seafarers’ party list group Angkla welcomed the IATF decision.

“As we commend the IATF on their new booster policy, we reiterate our request that OFWs and seafarers should be inoculated with universal vaccines recognized in their countries of deployment," Angkla said in a statement on Saturday.

"This ensures seamless seafarer deployment and allows their families and communities to continue recovering from the impact of the pandemic,” the party list group added.

The remaining priority groups, A3 to A5, may be able to access boosters later in 2022.

The booster plans begin to roll out as 43% of the Philippines' target population is reported fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of November 18. – Rappler.com

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer at Rappler. Possessing the heart and soul of a feminist, she is working on specializing in women's issues in Newsbreak, Rappler's investigative arm.

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