MANILA — An advisory group rejected a proposal by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) to allot COVID-19 shots for "influencers" who might help boost the public's vaccine confidence, Malacanang said Tuesday.
Palace and IATF spokesman Harry Roque said the influencers included him, President Rodrigo Duterte, some Cabinet members, lawmakers, and media and movie personalities.
"Tatapatin ko po kayo, kami po sa IATF (inter-agency task force on COVID-19) ay nag-propose na mga 50 na mga bakuna i-reserba para sa mga tinatawag nating influencers nang mapaigting natin ang ating vaccine confidence," said Roque.
(I will be honest with you, we at the IATF proposed that about 50 vaccines be reserved for who we call influencers to boost our vaccine confidence.)
"Hindi po sumang-ayon ang NITAG (National Immunization Technical Advisory Group)," he told reporters in a televised briefing.
(The NITAG did not agree.)
The NITAG said health workers should be prioritized in the inoculation drive that started on Monday, Roque added.
The vaccination of "influencers" who are not medical frontliners will need "specific approvals," he said.
Roque missed the first round of inoculations on Monday, while vaccine czar Carlito Galvez and testing czar Vince Dizon got their first COVID-19 jabs with about 756 health workers and military personnel in Metro Manila.
"Sinabi talaga ni Presidente, bakunahan sila... Ayaw pa po sana, pero I might as well say the truth, talagang si President po nagsabi, at least itong dalawang ito, kinakailangan mabakunahan dahil of course, we need to walk the talk," said Roque.
(The President said they should be vaccinated. They did not want to, but I might as well say the truth, but the President said that at least these two should be vaccinated because of course, we need to walk the talk.)
"Susunod na lang po ako d'yan para wala nang away. 'Pag pupuwede na, susunod na ako d'yan," he added.
(I will go next so there will be no more issue. Once it's allowed, I will go next.)
The Philippines has only one vaccine supply so far, courtesy of China's donation of 600,000 COVID-19 shots developed by Beijing-based drug maker Sinovac Biotech.
At the Philippine General Hospital on Monday, some 120 health workers took the vaccine, about double the initial estimate, said Roque.
"Napakatagumpay po ng nangyari," he said.
(The activity was a success.)
Among the hardest hit by the pandemic in Asia, the Philippines, with over 580,000 coronavirus infections, has struggled to secure vaccine deals, while stiff competition has tightened supply. Authorities hope to inoculate 70 million people or two-thirds of the population this year.
— With a report from Reuters