MANILA — The Philippines is seeing "the light at the end of the tunnel," President Rodrigo Duterte said, as the country's economic and government frontliners started getting vaccinated against COVID-19 on Monday.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other officials led the "symbolic vaccination" of food industry workers, a journalist, a truck driver, BPO personnel, a food delivery rider, and a sales clerk, among others—who belong to the country's almost 30 million essential workers.
"We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel as the vaccine shipments have arrived, have started to arrive in bulks," Duterte said in a taped message played during the event.
"With the start of our mass vaccination, the A4 priority category, our workers in both public and private sector, will have an added layer of protection against the disease," he added.
Essential workers belong to "A4," the fourth priority group in the vaccination drive, after health workers, the elderly, and people with health risks.
The Philippines is expected to get about 10 million COVID-19 shots in June, and some 15 million more doses in August, vaccine "czar" Carlito Galvez Jr. said during the program.
"Ang pagbabakuna sa A4 ay masasabi nating game changer sa ating laban sa COVID-19. Layunin natin na ligtas na makapaghanapbuhay ang ating mga manggawa," said Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque, a guest at the event.
"Ito rin ang magsisiguro na kahit and’yan ang coronavirus ay hindi masisira o matitigil ang serbisyo ng atiing pamahalaan," he added.
(The vaccination of the A4 is a game changer in our fight against COVID-19. We aim that our workers can earn a livelihood safely. This will also ensure that despite the coronavirus, government service will be not be derailed or delayed.)
With about 1.2 million coronavirus infections and some 21,000 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest COVID-19 tally in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.
The Philippines has taken delivery of at least 9.329 million COVID-19 shots, of which some 5.382 million doses have been administered as of June 2.