by Leila B. Salaverria, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 17 Apr 2021
The A4 category among the priority groups in the national COVID-19 vaccination program has been expanded to include more front-liners in essential sectors, as the government aims to further open up the economy and allow more activities amid the continuing threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
The government is currently vaccinating those in the A1 to A3 categories, which cover medical front-liners, senior citizens and persons with comorbidities.
The immunization of those in the A4 category is expected to begin in May.
Under the new list released on Friday by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), the A4 group includes workers in commuter transport (land, air and sea, including logistics); public and private wet and dry market vendors; front-line workers in groceries, supermarkets, delivery services; workers in manufacturing for food, beverage, medical and pharmaceutical products; food retail, including food service delivery; private and government financial services; and hotels and accommodation establishments.
Religious groups, media
Also included are priests, rabbis, imams and other religious leaders; security guards and other personnel assigned in offices, agencies and organizations identified in the list of priority industries/sectors; front-line workers in private and government news media; customer relations personnel of telecommunications, cable and internet service providers, electricity distribution and water distribution utilities; front-line personnel in basic education and higher education institutions and agencies; and overseas Filipino workers, including those scheduled for deployment within two months.
Judiciary, diplomatic circles
The fourth priority list also includes front-line workers in the judiciary and legal profession, as well as security and social protection sectors; front-line government workers engaged in the operations of the government transport system and quarantine inspection; those in worker safety inspection and other COVID-19 response activities; front-line government workers in charge of tax collection, assessment of businesses for incentives; election, national ID, data collection personnel; the diplomatic community and Department of Foreign Affairs personnel; and Department of Public Works and Highways personnel in charge of monitoring government infrastructure projects.
The next category in the vaccine priority list is A5, which covers the indigent population not included in the first four categories.
The B1 category covers teachers and social workers, although front-line education personnel are now included in A4.
B2 covers other government workers, B3 other essential workers, and B4 sociodemographic groups at significantly higher risk other than senior citizens and indigent people.
B5 is supposed to cover overseas Filipino workers, but they have since been included in the A4 category.
B6 covers the other remaining sectors of the workforce, while the C category covers the rest of the Filipino population not included in the other groups.
The A4 category has earlier included uniformed personnel as well as sectors identified as essential during the enhanced community quarantine.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) expressed gratitude for the inclusion of lawyers in the government’s vaccination drive.
“We are thankful that the request for inclusion of lawyers in vaccine prioritization was favorably acted upon,” IBP president Domingo Cayosa said in a statement.
“Litigation lawyers, prosecutors [and] PAO (Public Attorney’s Office) lawyers are front-liners in the justice/law sector who are at high risk of COVID-19 infection [and] should be similarly protected as the magistrates and court employees,” Cayosa said.
Inmates not included
Also on Friday Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the IATF rejected the request of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to include inmates in the list.