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Solon: Include workers in vaccine priority list

SENATOR Joel Villanueva reiterated the need to include workers in the government’s vaccination program, particularly those earning minimum wage, saying the ability to sustain the country’s economic recovery relies heavily on inoculating those providing essential services to the public.

Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, said he would scrutinize the government’s plan for the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine as the Senate convenes the Committee of the Whole on Monday to look into the vaccination program. Officials of the Inter-Agency Task Force managing the pandemic response, as well as from the Department of Health are expected to attend.

We have to make sure that workers providing essential services are included in the government’s priority list, on top of its initial pronouncements of prioritizing healthcare workers, the police and the military, and the elderly,” Villanueva said in a statement.

Workers in the services industry, construction workers in public and private projects, market attendants, delivery riders, security guards, and workers in food retail and distribution networks are those who the government should consider to include in the priority list. They are the workers who keep the economy going. They should be included in the vaccination program,” he continued.

These minimum wage earners work in high-risk workplaces such as construction sites, factories, groceries, and public markets, among others, and they rely on public transportation to move around, Villanueva explained. He pointed out that the importance of providing them with access to vaccines since they are working for subsistence of their families.

The lawmaker filed Senate Resolution No. 598 to look into the government’s vaccination program to assess how workers would be covered given the initial pronouncements of the country’s vaccine czar that the planned inoculation intends to cover 70% of the population in the next three to five years.

Our market attendants ensure that basic goods are readily available. Our garbage collectors help us keep our communities clean. Our security guards protect establishments. Our delivery riders allow us to buy our basic needs without going out of our houses and exposing ourselves to the risk of getting infected. That is why these are among the workers who must be included in the vaccination program because they provide essential services,” Villanueva said.

About 57.2% (22.76 million) of the country’s 39.8 million employed workers are in the services sector, according to the latest Labor Force Survey in October 2020. About 3.97 million workers are employed in the construction sector, the same study showed.

Minimum wage earners are about 29% of salaried workers, or about 7.2 million workers, estimates from the Department of Finance showed.

A clear-cut plan on implementing the distribution of the vaccines will help assuage the concerns of both workers and businesses, thus helping restore confidence which will boost our economy,” Villanueva said.