By Ernie Reyes
PUV drivers (Photo courtesy by PIA)
MANILA — Senator Grace Poe urged the government to give priority to all public utility vehicle drivers in the vaccination program in order for them to recover from the ill effects of the pandemic as they were not been given cash aid.
In a statement, Poe, chairman of the Senate committee on public services, it is more than a year under the strict implementation of lockdowns, PUV drivers and other workers are the hardest hit of the pandemic.
“Mahigit isang taon sa ilalim ng lockdown, hirap pa rin sa pag-ahon ang ating mga public utility vehicle (PUV) driver. Napag-iwanan na nga sa ayuda, ‘wag na natin silang ihuli sa bakuna,” Poe said.
Poe said that they are included in the A4 category of vaccinees, “we hope they will not be bumped off the line and soon get their shots in the current rollout of the government’s vaccination program.”
“Our PUV drivers need the vaccine now given the critical frontline work that they do,” she said.
The lady senator said that throughout this pandemic, drivers have been a lifeline to their communities. “They have ferried healthcare workers to hospitals, delivered food to people at home, and helped many businesses up and running.”
“The vaccine will not only protect our drivers, but also strengthen the resilience of our essential transport services,” Poe ended.
On the other hand, Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday warned against the ‘brand agnostic’ vaccine policy of the Department of Health (DOH), saying it is counterproductive and may further erode people’s trust in the national vaccination program.
“Hindi natin mapapataas ang kumpiyansa ng ating mga kababayan kapag kaduda-duda ang ating mga polisiya. Senyales din ito na malaki ang pagkukulang ng DOH sa pagkumbinse sa mga tao na garantisadong ligtas at mabisa ang mga aprubadong bakuna, anuman ang brand name nito,” she said.
The statement comes as the DOH urged local governments to refrain from announcing the brand of COVID-19 vaccines that they will roll-out supposedly to avoid overcrowding in several vaccination sites.
Hontiveros however stressed that keeping vaccine patients in the dark only creates unnecessary friction in the national vaccination program.
“We hope and expect the DOH will reconsider their policy decision. Respeto naman sa pasyente. Before being vaccinated, they need to be properly informed so they can make an appropriate decision and give informed consent. Gusto nating mabigyan ng kapanatagan ang ating mga kababayan at maproteksyunan ng agaran. Maiiwasan sana ang mga insidente ng overcrowding kung maayos ang impormasyong matatanggap nila,” the senator said.
Instead, the senator reiterated that the DOH should strengthen its partnerships with local governments and barangays to expand its vaccine education program and give incentives for people who get vaccinated.
“Mga insentibo ang dapat na ialok sa publiko, gaya ng grocery packs o paid vacation leave, para maengganyo silang magpabakuna. Gawin nating positive ang vaccination experience nila. The government needs to do all it can to regain the public’s trust. If not, we risk never reaching herd immunity,” she concluded. (AI/MTVN)