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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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:
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 email@example.com.