Philippines: Overseas Filipinos to get vaccine preferred by destination country; country's Covid-19 total now above 1.35 million

A woman reacts as she is inoculated with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at a sporting arena converted into a temporary vaccination center in San Juan, Philippines on Thursday, June 17, 2021. The government began expanding the vaccination priority group to indigent residents. - AP

MANILA, June 19 (Philippines Daily Inquirer/ANN): The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported on Saturday 6, 959 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the South-East Asian country to 1, 353, 220.

The death toll climbed to 23, 538 after 153 more patients died from the viral disease, the DOH said.

The Philippines, which has more than 110 million population, has tested more than 13 million people since the outbreak in January 2020.

Meanwhile, The government will give overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) the vaccine brand required by their country of destination despite the limited supply of Western-made jabs available in the Philippines.

Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III said some countries had expressed a preference for Pfizer although he did not give any details.

He did say, however, that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) had subjected to more stringent quarantine rules workers who had been given Chinese-made vaccines like Sinopharm and Sinovac.

To prevent a repeat of last month’s incident in which KSA-bound OFWs were temporarily stopped from leaving Manila, Bello asked the National Task Force Against Covid-19 (NTF) to give OFWs the brand required by their employers.

In response, NTF deputy chief Secretary Vivencio Dizon said that due to the country’s limited supply of Pfizer vaccines, the government would prioritize seafarers or land-based OFWs set to leave in four months’ time.

On Thursday, about 1, 200 seafarers were given Pfizer shots during an exclusive vaccination organized by manning agency Magsaysay Maritime Corp. and the Manila City government.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who was at the event, encouraged other agencies and seafarers’ unions to coordinate with local governments for group vaccinations.

No violation, favoritism

“There’s no violation of ‘equal protection’ [from vaccines], no favoritism ... since [a specific brand] is condition for their employment, ” he said.

Dizon said seafarers and OFWs were moved up to the A1 category, the government’s top priority sector which initially included only health workers, to give them the “opportunity to receive COVAX-donated vaccines, like Pfizer.”

He said seafarers and OFWs, who were previously categorized as “other essential workers, ” might also get vaccinated through the local governments in their provinces.

Aside from Pfizer, Bello said he also wanted OFWs to be given the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines once these become available locally. - Philippines Daily Inquirer/ANN

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