MANILA (UPDATE) — The Filipino Nurses United (FNU) on Monday expressed disappointment over reports that members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were vaccinated already against COVID-19.
“Parang inapi naman nila yung health workers. Talagang ipinakita nila na hindi priority. Aside from that, yung mga benefits na hindi pa natatanggap,” FNU Treasurer Jaymmee de Guzman told ABS-CBN News during a video call.
(It’s like they’re maltreating health workers. They showed that we are not a priority. Aside from that, we haven't received some benefits yet.)
De Guzman herself has been serving as an emergency room nurse at the San Lazaro Hospital, one of the first facilities in the Philippines to accommodate COVID-19 patients.
The FNU and other groups have long been clamoring for better working conditions and benefits for health workers, especially those in the frontlines against COVID-19.
De Guzman said while she does not know what the reason was behind the PSG’s prioritization, she said the government should remember that “we are still under attack at yung mga humaharap ay mga health workers (those facing the enemy are health workers).
“Unahin naman sana yung mga health worker,” she said. “Nakaka-disappoint. Nakakagalit.”
(I hope they prioritize health workers. It is disappointing and enraging.)
De Guzman said though it is actually not surprising since it has happened before — when government officials, according to her, were seemingly given priority when it came to testing.
She pointed out that other countries have been able to prioritize the vaccination of health workers.
So far, there have been 13,510 health workers in the country who were infected with COVID-19, of whom, 76 died.
De Guzman said if health workers with insurance are not prioritized, she wonders how indigent patients will have early access to COVID-19 vaccines.
“We should benefit from the billions of funds allotted for COVID-19,” she said in Filipino. “And hopefully the government will explain themselves because they owe it to us.”
Meanwhile, Robert Mendoza, president of the Alliance of Health Workers, said they are saddened by the news.
"Nakakalungkot din na bakit nauna pa 'yung ating mga kapulisan, mga kasundaluhan na in fact, parehas kaming mga frontliners," he told Teleradyo.
(It's sad because why were the police and the soldiers prioritized when we are both frontliners.)
"Nakakagulat lang kasi itong ating gobyerno, sinasabi na dapat lahat ay dumaan sa proseso, dumaan sa pagsusuri ng FDA pero 'yun pala mayroon nang ilang kasundaluhan natin, lalo na 'yung PSG, na nabigyan na pala ng bakuna," Mendoza added.
(It's surprising because the government always says that everything should follow the proper process, it should be checked by the FDA but there are soldiers, especially the PSG, who have already been vaccinated.)
For Mendoza, health workers should have been prioritized, since it would be very difficult if they are the ones who will get sick.
"Nakakalungkot lang. In fact, doon sa priority (list), nangunguna po ang health workers, panlima lang ang kasundaluhan natin pero bakit ganoon po ang nangyari," he said.
(It's saddening. In fact, the health workers are listed first in the priority, the soldiers are only fifth but why did this happen.)
"Kung binigyan ng prayoridad ang PSG, dapat mas prayoridad pa rin ang mga health workers kasi kung kami ang magkakasakit na, sino na ang mag-aalaga ng ating mga pasyente?" Mendoza added.
(If the PSG were given priority, we should have been prioritized as well because if we get sick, then who will take care of the patients?)
However, Dr. Maricar Limpin, vice president of the Philippine College of Physicians, personally believes the president has the prerogative on who should receive the vaccine first, especially if those were received as donation.
"Kailangan tingnan natin ng tama kung ano 'yung circumstances surrounding 'yang bakuna na 'yan na naibigay sa PSG...baka kasi donation naman ito. Kung donation, I think, gagamitin talaga 'yung gamot na 'yun," she said.
(We have to look closely at the circumstances surrounding the vaccine given to the PSG. It might be given as donation, and I think, we really have to use those medicines.)
"Kung ito po ay donation or whatever, at si presidente po ang ano niyan, I think it's the prerogative ng presidente. And naiintindihan ko din bakit ang gusto din niya, kung bakit ang pinagbigyan po ay 'yung mga miyembro ng PSG, dahil remember, sila po ang nakapaligid palagi sa ating presidente," Limpin added.
(If this is a donation or whatever, it is the prerogative of the president. And I understand why they prioritized the PSG since they are the ones who are always around the president.)
Despite what already happened, Limpin said it is still important for any vaccine be authorized for use by the FDA.