MANILA — The government is planning to enlist the help of medicine and nursing students as well as graduates for its COVID-19 vaccination program, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said Tuesday.
CHED Chairman Prospero de Vera said 4th and 5th-year students as well as graduates who have not passed their licensure exams would be asked to become vaccinators under the government's inoculation drive.
De Vera said he and National Task Force Against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon already talked to colleges and universities offering medicine and nursing programs over the proposal.
"Positive naman ang response ng mga eskuwelahan. We are now crafting the guidelines to see how it will work kasi kailangang kailangan talaga natin ng dagdag na tulong para sa pagbabakuna," he said at the Laging Handa public briefing.
(The schools responded positively to our proposal. We are now crafting the guidelines to see how it will work because we really need additional manpower in our vaccination drive.)
The government earlier allowed higher education institutions (HEIs) offering medical and allied health science programs to hold limited in-person classes to ensure that the country would have enough medical frontliners during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the briefing, De Vera said 118 public and private HEIs have been holding limited in-person classes.
CHED has asked President Duterte to allow limited in-person classes for other programs that require "hands-on experience" such as engineering, hotel and restaurant management, and maritime courses.
De Vera also stressed the need to continuously produce health professionals as he reacted to calls for the postponement of the Physician Licensure Exam (PLE) scheduled in September.
"Kailangan natin ng additional health workers dahil sa COVID. So we have to continue producing more doctors," he said.
(We need additional health workers because of COVID. So we have to continue producing more doctors.)
De Vera added that there are medicine graduates who want to push through with the exam so they can get jobs.
"Ang importante ay dapat ligtas iyong kukuha ng examination," he said.
(What's important is that those who will take the examination are safe.)
The Philippine Medical Students' Association and National Union of Students of the Philippines earlier urged the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) to postpone the licensure exam due to the continued rise in COVID cases in the country.
Both groups said they have corresponded with the PRC, which explained that the decision to continue the PLE was a response to "the call of the Department of Health to produce newly licensed physicians to augment the health care workforce."