By Joseph B.A. Marzan
Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. said he will not push to move up local chief executives in the vaccination priority list even as one of the mayors in the province admitted to getting vaccinated against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccinations and Immunizations (GAVI) this week warned governments not to bump up other groups in the vaccination priority list using vaccines from the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility.
Five mayors in the country were called out by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) over having themselves vaccinated early.
Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez also found himself in hot water this week after defending actor Mark Anthony Fernandez, who was confirmed to have received his vaccine ahead of medical frontliners, citing the actor’s depression which he categorized as a “comorbidity.”
Vaccination priority as of this writing is still with the “A1” group, which includes medical frontliners in COVID-19 Referral Facilities and other health facilities in the country, regardless if they had any direct contact with active COVID-19 patients.
Data from the Iloilo Provincial Health Office as of 9 a.m. of Mar. 25, 2021 indicated that 2,746 frontliners out of 2,751 total vaccinees have been inoculated with the first dose of either CoronaVac by Sinovac or AZD1222 by AstraZeneca.
In Western Visayas, two mayors already received their first dose – Raul Banias of Concepcion, Iloilo, and Melecio Yap Jr. of Escalante City, Negros Occidental.
In a press conference, Defensor confirmed that he had not received any order from the DILG on officials who jumped the vaccination priority in the province.
But the governor also said that he sees the vaccinations of local leaders as an opportunity to promote vaccination in the province, however he then walked back his statement, citing the country’s obligations to the COVAX facility.
He also said that he may be open to vaccinating local leaders, but only when there are enough vaccines and the obligation to the COVAX facility had been fulfilled.
“I’m not saying that I want to push local chief executives to the front, but we are supposed to stick to the plan, especially when it comes from the COVAX facility, because we have obligations. [The mayors] wanted to show their constituents that they were willing to get vaccinated. I think if not for our obligations to the COVAX facility, that would be a sound vaccination strategy, but it is not doable right now because we have obligations,” Defensor said in a press conference.