President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday ordered vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. to prioritize the vaccination of seafarers and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) using American-made COVID-19 jabs as some employers only accept workers vaccinated with Western brands.
"I will make it simple, bigay ko kay Sec Galvez kung paano sila (OFWs and seafarers). They want it group in their province, they can always maybe tawag ang sila magtext sila and confirm ng mga doctor doon, Sec Galvez will give the go signal na bigyan sila ng US-made," Duterte said during his taped Cabinet meeting regarding the COVID-19 response.
Prior to this, presidential spokesman Harry Roque reported to Duterte that seafarers and Filipino workers abroad are requesting to get vaccinated in their respective provinces using Western-made brands to avoid overcrowding in Metro Manila.
To ensure the deployment of Philippine seafarers, Roque said the following conditions must be enforced:
- Active seafarers should be allowed to be vaccinated in their respective LGUs before returning to Manila for deployment
- Returning seafarers should be given their first jab upon release of their negative RT/CPR test and prior to returning home to their provinces
- Seafarers preferred to be vaccinated with vaccines authorized for use in the European Union (AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson&Johnson) because of the unpredictability of their next deployment
- Seafarers are asking for 500,000 jabs to cover all eventualities
Roque also cited that employers in Europe are only allowing the use of Western brands such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna.
It can be recalled that during the launch of the Philippines' vaccination program, the country used China-made Sinovac and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.
Meanwhile, Duterte said the move to give priority to seafarers and OFWs is "not a violation of equal protection of laws" because "it is what their nature of work requires."
He added that there is also no evidence that American-made vaccines are "superior" to China's vaccines.
"Kung sabihin mo na iyong hindi mabakunahan ng Moderna o Pfizer at nabakunahan ng Sinovac at Sinopharm, there is no distinction or clear evidence na Pfizer at Moderna ay superior to Sinovac at Sinopharm puro bakuna yan. Generic," said Duterte.
In a previous Cabinet meeting, Senator Bong Go raised to Duterte the issue of prioritizing vaccination of Filipino workers abroad and seafarers.
Roque said there are an estimated 30,000 Filipino seafarers who are supposed to disembark/embark ships every month. With the lockdown in place, only 25\% of normal crew changes have taken place since 2020. -- BAP, GMA News