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Vaccination for essential crucial to save lives and livelihoods, says Sen. Bong Go

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Senator Christopher “Bong” Go renewed his appeal to the national government to firm up necessary guidelines and procedures of the National Vaccine Roadmap as the vaccine rollout is expected to reach the A4 priority category in the coming months.

“Natutuwa po tayo na patuloy ang pagbabakuna ng priority sectors sa ating bansa. Inuuna lang po natin ang healthworkers, senior citizens, at ‘yung may comorbidities. Pagkatapos nito ay babakunahan na natin ang essential sectors hanggang makarating sa indigents at iba pang miyembro ng lipunan,” Go said.

Go highlighted that as the country expects more vaccines to arrive in the coming months, government should also prepare detailed guidelines and procedures on how to vaccinate a bigger chunk of the population. He cited that the current vaccination of A1 to A3 priority groups is just the first step and the processes may become more complex as the rollout reaches other sectors of society.

“Klaro naman po kung bakit prayoridad ang frontliners, senior citizens at ‘yung may comorbidities. Pero habang pababa tayo ng listahan at parami ng parami ang pwede nang mabakunahan, dapat nakalatag na rin ang mga mekanismo para masigurong maayos, episyente, at epektibo ang proseso at klaro rin kung bakit natin binabakunahan ang mga sektor na susunod sa priority list,” Go explained.

He also supported the appeal of seafarers and other Overseas Filipino Workers to consider the requirements needed for them to resume their work abroad, such as the need to be inoculated with vaccines that are acceptable in their country of destination, as well as the necessary documentation to prove that they have been vaccinated.

“Umapela po tayo na maisama sa A4 priority group ang seafarers at OFWs na kailangan na umalis papunta sa ibang bansa para makapagpatuloy ng trabaho. Nais nating mabakunahan na ang sektor na ito para po maibalik na ang kabuhayan nila at makatulong sa ekonomiya. May mga pamilya po silang binubuhay, tulungan natin sila para mas makatulong rin sila sa komunidad nila,” Go appealed.

Go, who serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, emphasized that aside from vaccinating workers who play essential roles in the community, government must also ensure that overseas-bound workers are able to resume their work abroad because they had been appropriately inoculated with vaccines that are compliant with the regulations of their countries of destination.

“Bukod sa pagsama sa kanila sa prayoridad, dapat masiguro rin na ‘yung bakuna na ituturok sa kanila ay acceptable sa bansang patutunguhan nila at may maipapakita silang pruweba,” Go added, emphasizing that through vaccination, “not only should their lives be protected, but their livelihoods as well.’

Since certain countries where these seafarers are bound to be deployed have preferences in terms of vaccines, Go further suggested that seafarers and other OFWs can be prioritized once doses from Western countries, like Pfizer and Moderna, arrive in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, noting that members of this sector cross international borders all the time and may need to provide proof of vaccination as a requirement for entry in some of their ports of call, Go also asked the government to provide acceptable proof of vaccination to these workers.

“Sa ngayon, may ibinibigay na vaccination cards para doon sa mga nabakunahan na. Kailangan lang siguraduhin na acceptable ito na pruweba kahit saan man sila magpunta. Usap-usapan ngayon ang pagkakaroon ng vaccine passports. Dapat mapaghandaan ito ng mabuti,” Go stressed.

Go raised concerns that the provision of vaccine passports must not be a reason for complacency among those already vaccinated. He emphasized the advice of health experts that vaccines are meant to lower the risks of COVID-19 but do not necessarily stop transmission.

“Pag-aralan nating mabuti ‘yung pag-implementa ng vaccine passports. Kailangan may maipakita ang mga tao na katibayan na nabakunahan na sila, lalo na kung requirement ito sa ibang bansa at sa lugar ng kanilang pagtatrabahuhan. Pero hindi dapat ito gamiting rason para maging kampante. Mag-ingat pa rin tayo dahil nakakahawa pa rin ang COVID-19,” he said.

Under Section 12 of Republic Act 11525, the Department of Health is tasked to issue a vaccine card to all persons vaccinated. To expedite the process, the DOH may delegate the processing and issuance of vaccine cards to local government units and private entities, subject to guidelines to be promulgated by the DOH.

“Porke’t nabakunahan ka na, hindi naman ibig sabihin na hindi kailangan sumunod sa health protocols. Hanggang hindi pa nararating ang herd immunity, hindi pa po ligtas. Mag-ingat pa rin dapat at magmalasakit tayo sa mga kababayan natin na posibleng mahawahan ng sakit,” he said.

Recently, Go has successfully raised the appeals of certain essential sectors to be part of the vaccine priority list without prejudice to already identified priority groups especially medical frontliners who remain the top priority. Among these sectors that have already been included in the A4 category through Go’s recommendation are frontline news media workers, airport personnel, seafarers and OFWs needed to be deployed abroad immediately.

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