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Proposal to first vaccinate 50 'influencers' thumbed down to give priority to healthcare workers

By Bim Santos Published Mar 02, 2021 1:18 am

A proposal to have influencers be vaccinated first was rejected by a government panel overseeing the campaign in order to better prioritize healthcare workers.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in the press conference today, March 2, that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases proposed the idea to bolster confidence in the vaccination efforts.

“Tatapatin ko po kayo, kami po sa IATF ay nagpo-propose na mga 50 na mga bakuna ay ireserba para dun sa mga tinatawag na ‘influencers’ para mapaigting natin ang ating vaccine confidence,” Roque said.

But the interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group or iNITAG, a panel of experts advising the Health department, rejected the proposal.

Roque said that he also intended to get vaccinated at the Philippine General Hospital yesterday, but was not able to do so due to the iNITAG’s decision to prioritize medical frontliners.

“News came to me na talagang matindi ang pagtutol ng iNITAG na (huwag) magpaturok ang mga hindi medical frontliners so to avoid controversy hindi na po ako tumuloy,” Roque said.

The prioritization of healthcare workers in the vaccination campaign was also the reason why Marikina Mayor Marcy Teodoro was not able to get the jab today, as he initially intended to. Teodoro said he was asked not to proceed by IATF COVID-19 program deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon.

The strategy to have influencers first in the vaccination queue was done in Indonesia, where TV and social media personalities received the jab first along with President Joko Widodo. The country’s health ministry said the move, which was not without controversy, was meant to help convince the skeptical public.

Besides medical frontliners, the IATF’s COVID-19 program chief implementer Carlito Galvez and Dizon were also vaccinated yesterday upon the instruction of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Due to the hesitation of some from getting the Sinovac jab, PGH reportedly only prepared 70 doses at the ceremonial opening of the vaccination drive yesterday. But over a hundred reportedly turned up.

“Napaka-tagumpay po nung nangyari,” said Roque.

The government’s vaccination drive is now proceeding on the back of Beijing-based Sinovac's donation of 600,000 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, which has been allocated to medical frontliners. Galvez said details on the subsequent orders from other drug manufacturers still have no definite date yet due to shortages and logistical challenges, among other issues.