By Deighton Acuin

PHOTO: Presidential Communications

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night said healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses, who are not actively engaging in coronavirus pandemic response would not be given a priority on the national vaccination program.

Duterte said this after he welcomed the 1.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech which are part of the procurements made by the Philippine government.

According to Duterte, the vaccines available on hand would be enough for frontline workers.

“Let’s be frank. The 1.2 million doses that arrived today will just be enough for the frontliners — the health workers and all those connected with the efforts in fighting COVID,” he said in Filipino.

“But, for example, people who are not at all doing work in a hospital or those who are not practitioners, those with businesses, shouldn’t they be considered as civilians?

“I would not give [priority] because [COVID-19 response] has no connection to your job. There are people with medical education — medicine, nursing — but they are not practicing it. They are not practicing their profession, would they be considered also priority or just an ordinary citizen?” Duterte asked.

In response to the President, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said: “You’re correct, Mr. President. They will not be considered as healthcare workers for the simple reason, sir, that they have practically no risk of exposure compared to the healthcare workers in the hospitals, — both local and national, both public and private — and those in other facilities like isolation quarantine facilities and our barangay health workers and doctors."

Duque added the workers would be included in the A1 inoculation category.

However, neither Duterte nor Duque mentioned if health professionals working in lifestyle clinics and conducting cosmetic surgeries would also not be covered in the priority.

Amid the surge of infections, the government is counting on vaccines in a bid to end the raging effects of the pandemic.

The government earlier imposed Metro Manila together with provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal under the stringent quarantine classification, the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), to further decrease the surge of confirmed cases.

As of Tuesday, March 30, the Department of Health reported 9,296 additional cases, 103 additional recoveries, and 5 deaths. Bringing the national count to 741,181 infected individuals, 603,310 recoveries, and 13,191 mortalities.

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