Government urged to include farmers, agri sector in priority for vaccination

(Philstar.com) – January 11, 2021 – 3:56pm

MANILA, Philippines — The national government should also be looking at including farmers in its nationwide plan to inoculate 50 million to 70 million Filipinos with coronavirus vaccines in 2021 given their essential contributions amid the pandemic, a lawmaker said. 

In a statement issued Monday morning, Rep. Argel Cabatbat (Magsasaka Party-list) highlighted the agricultural sector’s work amid the coronavirus-induced community quarantines, calling farmers — among the poorest sectors in the Philippines — essential workers in their own right. 

The Philippine government on Sunday signed an agreement to secure the supply of 30 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Serum Institute of India. This comes as several local governments across the country also signed their own deals with British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca to secure doses of its coronavirus vaccine for their constituents.

“As we roll out our vaccination program this year, there is a need to recognize the important work that our farmers do. All throughout the pandemic, the agricultural sector has fought tooth and nail to help our nation survive. Their dedication, despite the overwhelming odds stacked against them – in government funding and assistance, legislation, and competition –, gives them the right to be prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine,” Cabatbat said.

“In many ways, our farmers are essential workers and should be treated akin to the medical sector and our uniformed personnel. They are frontliners – in the fields and markets, and the results of their hard work are felt by everyone who needs to eat – that deserve to be treated with [the] utmost respect,” he also said. 

The sad reality is that even with all their sacrifices for the nation, the farming sector remains to be one of the poorest groups of Filipinos.”

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The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases has, in a resolution issued earlier on in the pandemic, actually recognized farmers and fishers as part of the essential sector tasked to keep the nation’s food supply running.

The Commission on Human Rights, however, has also noted that the global pandemic only worsened the existing inequalities faced by both sectors. 

To recall, the list of priority beneficiaries announced by the Palace earlier in December had healthcare workers getting inoculated first, followed by indigent senior citizens, the remaining population of senior citizens, and then the remaining members of the indigent population. Uniformed personnel, including the police and military, are the fifth priority. 

RELATED: 1.76 million health workers will be first to get COVID-19 vaccines

Special secret vaccination for PSG

However, Malacañang did not seem to mind when members of the presidential security detail bypassed this earlier pronouncement and went ahead with smuggled and unapproved vaccines. 

The Palace as well as President Rodrigo Duterte himself has excused the unauthorized vaccinations, saying the Presidential Security Group did that to protect the president from possible coronavirus transmission.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque has asked the public to “stop” discussing the issue altogether despite clear violations of the Food and Drug Administration’s protocols. 

“I appeal to our national government and relevant authorities to include our farmers in the priority list, for in doing so we send the message that we see them with value, we recognize their importance to the nation, and we will return with gratitude their service to the nation,” Cabatbat said Monday.

“The full might of our government should be committed in protecting them, because our nation’s health depends on food security for as long as we cannot fully vaccinate every Filipino in the country… A threat to their health is a threat to their livelihoods, and by extension, their family’s and the Philippines’ future.”

As of the health department’s latest case tally, the Philippines has recorded over 487,000 COVID-19 infections in the country, good for the second-worst coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia following Indonesia.

— Franco Luna with reports from Gaea Katreena Cabico and Xave Gregorio 



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