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Gov't releases new vaccine priority list, includes persons with comorbidities

The Philippine pandemic task force has included persons with comorbidities in its list of priority groups for COVID-19 vaccination. Teachers and social workers, meanwhile, have been placed in the 2nd tier of prioritization.

The new list was made public on Friday, February 5, by Presidential Spokesman and task force spokesman Harry Roque.

The list was formulated by the Interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (iNITAG), a team of health experts advising the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Here is the new list:

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 ECQ 

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 indigent people 

B5: Overseas Filipino Workers 

B6: Other remaining workforce 

C: Rest of the Filipino population not otherwise included in the above groups

Health workers to get Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

The task force also said it is allocating the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, expected to arrive this month, for health frontliners.

The first tranche will be given to frontliners in the following health facilities:

  • COVID-19 dedicated hospitals
  • COVID-19 referral hospitals
  • Hospitals owned by the Department of Health
  • Local government hospitals
  • Hospitals for uniformed services or personnel
  • Private hospitals

The Pfizer vaccines arriving in February are coming in through the World Health Organization-led COVAX Facility. The Philippines was able to qualify for the mechanism's early vaccine roll-out, intended to give developing countries affordable, equitable access to COVID-19 jabs.

Changing minds

In the first priority list released to the public, persons with comorbidities were not in the first tier of the list, which was dominated by health frontliners, senior citizens, and indigent Filipinos.

The World Health Organization has identified those with heart or lung disease, diabetes, or conditions affecting their immune system as "high-risk" because they are more likely to experience a severe COVID-19 infection.

Some members of the task force, including Roque, had argued for including persons with comorbidities but the idea was initially thumbed down.

"The other camp was saying, anyway most senior citizens with comorbidities already have priority," said Roque last January 11.

But another reason given for not including persons with comorbidities is that it would supposedly allow more people a chance to skip the line.

"There was some discussion because some are mistrustful, that it might be a loophole used by some to get ahead, even if they don't have [comorbidities]," said Roque.

Meanwhile, the new list does not include families of military personnel, despite President Rodrigo Duterte's promise in a speech in front of soldiers in Sulu.

Prioritization based on area

The task force, meanwhile, said it would prioritize geographic areas that have both high transmission rates and readiness to roll out vaccines.

The criteria is as follows:

  • COVID-19 burden of disease (current active cases, attack rate per 100,000 population in the past 4 weeks, population density)
  • readiness of local government unit or vaccination site, particularly its supply chain capability

– Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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