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Include teachers in vaccine priority list, government asked

A SENATOR wants the government to include teachers among the priority in its coronavirus vaccine program in time for a possible reopening of physical classes in August.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian noted that in Indonesia, public workers including teachers are second among the priority list after health workers.

“The Indonesian experience is something that we can study, but definitely, vaccinating teachers and putting them on the priority list is a must,” he told a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Mr. Gatchalian, who heads the Senate basic education committee, said the Education department should lobby for teachers’ inclusion.

Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno A. Malaluan said they could hold a poll among teachers to find out whether they want to be among the first to get vaccinated.

Health workers on the frontline are the priority among population groups for vaccination, followed by senior citizens, persons with co-morbidities, frontline personnel in essential sectors and indigent groups.

Also listed were teachers, social workers, government workers, other essential workers, socio-demographic groups at significantly higher risk and migrant Filipino workers.

Some senators also pushed for the pilot testing of face-to-face classes.

Senator Francis N. Pangilinan said Education officials could start with no more than a thousand students in physical classes.

“We need to experience it now, we need the lessons drawn now because we don’t have the luxury of time,” he told the hearing.

Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay said the pilot test could be held in areas with few coronavirus cases such as the provinces of Batanes and Siquijor.

“This is a good way for our scientists to study what can be done to mitigate  the effects of COVID,” Mr. Gatchalian said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte this week rejected a fresh push to hold face-to-face classes until people get vaccinated. In December, he rejected the pilot test that would have been held last month.

Meanwhile, the National Government vowed to help local governments boost their ability to cope with a prolonged lockdown.

This would allow them to better distribute stimulus funds provided by several laws including this year’s national budget, presidential spokesman Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. told an online news briefing.

He said the government would also facilitate the reopening of more industries in areas under a general community quarantine. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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