Employees, media to get first COVID-19 shots in House vaccination drive

Xave Gregorio (Philstar.com) – December 16, 2020 – 1:33pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 2 p.m.) — Employees, accredited media covering the House of Representatives and their families will be first in line in the chamber’s coronavirus vaccination drive once the shots become available for mass use in the country, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said Wednesday.

Velasco said the House is setting aside P50 million from its internal fund to purchase vaccines for their employees, media and five of their immediate family members. 

“[This is] for the normalcy of business,” he said. “We just want the legislative mill to be grinding.”

He said in a message to reporters that the House would most probably procure coronavirus vaccines from British-Swedish manufacturer AstraZeneca or from China’s Sinovac Biotech.

Velasco said that they included media workers in their upcoming coronavirus vaccination drive because the House leadership considers them “family.”

He added that House lawmakers would not be prioritized in the chamber’s vaccination drive as they would have to wait behind employees and media workers.

“If there are remaining doses, then that’s the time we use them for the House members,” he said.

House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza earlier bared that among Velasco’s “top priorities” is for the House to procure a coronavirus vaccine for House members and employees.

The government lists employees of national government agencies and local government units as the seventh group which would be prioritized for the coronavirus vaccine, following frontline health workers, poor senior citizens, remaining senior citizens, remaining poor population, uniformed personnel, and teachers and school workers.

According to the House’s latest tally, 191 people at the chamber, including lawmakers and staff, have contracted COVID-19.

The Philippines, through the efforts of around 30 private companies, has so far secured 2.6 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, which according to the British-Swedish drugmaker is 70% effective on average.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., also presidential peace advisor, has said that the country is also in talks with other drugmakers for the possible procurement of their coronavirus vaccine candidates.

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