LGUs in the Philippines

QC gov’t: No preferential treatment for policemen seen cutting vaccine line

Dwight de Leon
QC gov’t: No preferential treatment for policemen seen cutting vaccine line

PROTECTION. Quezon City private medical practitioners and Barangay health workers receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, March 22, 2021 at the Placido Del Mundo School in Barangay, Talipapa, Quezon City.

Photo by Rappler

The Quezon City Health Department says police personnel also qualify under the top vaccine priority population group because they serve as contact tracers or swabbers

The Quezon City (QC) government refuted a report which claimed personnel from the Philippine National Police (PNP) cut the lines at a COVID-19 inoculation site in the locality.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, March 23, advocacy group Bantay Bakuna said it received a report from a health care worker who claimed some 30 police officers were prioritized during a vaccination drive in Emilio Aguinaldo Elementary School in Cubao.

“Our source said health care workers in the queue lined up for hours to get their jab… (while) the PNP had a separate registration table,” the group told Rappler.

But the QC Health Department denied this, saying long lines triggered by a problem in the electronic registration system prompted them to allot a separate registration area for police officers.

Naipon ang ibang pulis sa pintuan ng registration area. Para hindi makasagabal sa daanan, minarapat naming papasukin na sila sa loob at maglaan ng isang pwesto para sa kanilang manual registration,” said Dr. Esperanza Arias, head of the QC Health Department.

(Policemen crowded in the registration area entrance. We let them in and allotted a separate spot for their manual registration so they wouldn’t impede registration)

She also explained there were originally two registration areas at the vaccination site—one for medical frontline workers, and another for other frontline personnel like policemen.

Wala po kaming intensyon na bigyan ng preferential treatment o palusutin sa pila ang mga pulis, kundi nais lamang nating mas mapabilis ang registration ng medical frontliners kaya inihiwalay namin ang pila ng mga pulis,” Arias said.

(We do not have any intention of giving preferential treatment to policemen; we just want to speed up the registration of medical frontliners so we placed policemen in a different spot)

Bantay Bakuna earlier questioned why policemen, who only rank fourth in the government’s vaccine priority list, were allowed to take the COVID-19 jab.

Arias, however, insisted that the police personnel qualify under the A1 vaccine priority population group, which consists of health frontline workers, as well as health professionals and non-professionals like students, nursing aides, janitors, and barangay health workers.

Bagama’t sila ay men in uniform o pulis, sila po ay mga health workers din at nagsisilbi bilang contact tracer, swabbers, nurse na nakaduty sa quarantine facilities, tumutulong sa pag-aalaga ng COVID patients sa isolation facilities, at nakatalaga sa special concern lockdown areas,” Arias explained.

(While they are men in uniform, they are also health workers who serve as contact tracers, swabbers, nurses in quarantine facilities. They help attend to COVID-19 patients in isolation facilities, and they are deployed in special concern lockdown areas)

Dahil sila ay itinuturing na frontliners at lantad sa panganib ng COVID-19, pasok sila sa kategorya ng A1 ng Vaccination Priority List ng gobyerno,” she added.

(They qualify under A1 of the government’s priority list because they are frontliners who face the threat of COVID-19.)

Following Arias’ explanation, Bantay Bakuna on Wednesday, March 24 lamented how policemen perform functions due to the lack of health professionals in the country.

“It shows how the uniformed personnel has been deployed to health-related pandemic response that non-uniformed health workers should have performed, if only more had been hired at the onset of the pandemic,” it said.

“Sadly, the situation of our health workers remains at a dismal state even after more than one year since the lockdown,” the group added.

‘Don’t cut the line’

The Department of Health (DOH) meanwhile reminded the public not to disregard the COVID-19 vaccine priority list as it disclosed receiving reports of people violating the government’s priority list.

Nagbigay na kami ng babala sa aming mga regional directors. Sinabi natin (We warned our regional directors, we told them), nobody jumps the line. The most important people who are to be vaccinated at this point in time are the health care workers,” DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

Vergeire urged people to wait their turn, adding initial doses available in the Philippines must be given to health frontliners who were tasked with saving the sick.

“Nobody jumps the line. Wag nating kunin yung bakuna para sa taong mag liligtas ng ating buhay. (Let us not get vaccines for people who will save our lives). Let us wait for our turn, darating tayo sa punto na mababakunahan tayong lahat (we will get to the point where everyone will be vaccinated),” she said.

After the Philippines launched its mass vaccine campaign on March 1, lawmakers and business groups lamented its slow rollout. Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr, however, said the government remained confident it could reach its target to inoculate 70 million Filipinos when bulk of vaccines ordered start arriving sometime April to May.

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In an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel on March 22, Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega admitted the agency received reports of individuals jumping the line for COVID-19 inoculations.

“This has been observed. The numbers are very insignificant but we do see (people) jumping the queue,” said Vega, who also serves as the country’s COVID-19 treatment czar. – Rappler.com

Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.