Gov't advisers reject priority vaccination of 'influencers'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 2) — In a bid to boost public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, some "influencers" were supposed to get inoculated ahead of others, but the proposal received a firm "no" from the government's advisers.

This was revealed by Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in his briefing on Tuesday. Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease previously came up with a list of "influencers" that included him, other government officials, as well as media personalities and celebrities to take the anti-coronavirus shots.

The IATF proposed to reserve some 50 doses for them, but the interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group rejected this, insisting that the vaccines should go to medical frontliners, Roque added.

"Tatapatin ko po kayo, kami po sa IATF ay nag-propose na mga 50 bakuna ireserba para sa tinatawag nating 'influencers' para mapaigting natin ang ating vaccine confidence," Roque revealed. "Hindi po sumang-ayon ang iNITAG at ako'y sumusunod naman."

[Translation: I will admit to you, we in the IATF had proposed to reserve some 50 shots for what we call "influencers," so we can boost our vaccine confidence. The iNITAG rejected this and I'm obeying it.]

"Ang emphasis nila, kung anong meron, ibigay muna sa medical frontliners," he added.

[Translation: Their emphasis was, whatever's available should first be given to medical frontliners.]

Roque said the iNITAG only agreed to prioritize Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., National Task Force against COVID-19 deputy implementer Vince Dizon, and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Benhur Abalos. They were all vaccinated on Monday, the first day of the country's immunization drive.

Roque noted that President Rodrigo Duterte explicitly ordered Galvez and Dizon to get inoculated, while Abalos had to represent all Metro Manila mayors amid the pandemic.

Roque added that while he was rejected, he will simply follow the advisory group's recommendation. He did not give any other specific names from the list, but Duterte, some congressmen and senators were supposed to be included.

"Susunod na lang po ako diyan para wala nang away," he said.

[Translation: I will simply follow so there will be no more arguments.]

The Philippines kicked off its first vaccination drive among health workers in various government facilities on Monday, a day after receiving 600,000 doses from China's Sinovac.