PH starts phased COVID-19 vaccination of workers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 7) — The Philippine government on Monday officially kicked off the COVID-19 vaccination of essential workers in areas frequently experiencing case surges.

Due to limited supplies, the vaccination of the A4 priority group is being carried out first in Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao — collectively called the NCR+8. The first phase of the inoculation covers employees in private companies who are working outside their homes; employees in government agencies; and informal sector workers and those self-employed who work outside their homes, and those working in private households.

President Rodrigo Duterte urged eligible members of the A4 cluster to register and get vaccinated as soon as possible. He also reminded the public to continue to wear masks and face shields and observe physical distancing.

"With the start of our mass vaccination, the A4 priority category, our workers in both private and public sector will have an added layer of protection against the disease," he said in a taped message during the symbolic vaccination event.

The vaccination of essential workers will be expanded later to areas outside NCR+8.

The Department of Health estimates are a total of 22 million essential workers nationwide, with 12 million located in NCR+8 .

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said formal workers can present their office identification cards, while vendors or household helpers can present other forms of proof of employment.

The Department of Health recommended that local governments stratify the rollout to the A4 group by prioritizing workers within 40-59 years old.

The World Health Organization, meanwhile, urged the prioritization of economic frontliners aged 45 and up.

"If we look at the data in the Philippines, deaths have happened in people over 45 years of age. So it is very important that we use the vaccines to reduce the deaths by prioritizing this group," WHO country representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said in a media briefing.

According to the DOH, vaccines procured by the government will be used to protect economic workers as the donated doses from the COVAX can only be used by healthcare workers (A1), senior citizens (A2), and people with comorbidities (A3).

Local governments were previously ordered to set-up express lanes to accommodate members of the A1 to A3 who have yet to receive their shots.

The Philippines has administered at least 5.96 million COVID-19 shots, with 1,544,332 individuals having received their second dose for higher degree of protection against severe COVID-19.

The average daily administered doses is now at 112,621.