Gov’t urged to include farmers in vaccine priority
The country’s food producers are pushing the inclusion of farmers and agricultural workers in the COVID-19 vaccination priority list after the Department of Agriculture (DA) confirmed that they would not be part of the first wave of inoculation.
This poses a problem for farmers and agricultural workers who would mostly rely on the national government to get jabs since many of them are in provinces where local governments are already financially struggling from giving out cash subsidies and reliefs.
In an interview with the Inquirer, farmer-leaders said there had been a clamor to prioritize front-line food workers who kept Filipinos fed throughout the height of the pandemic, but hopes have died down given the government’s patchwork of distribution plans.
“We want farmers to be recognized as front liners, but if we’re being realistic, most of them live in third- or fourth-class municipalities where there is no adequate health care. They would most likely be vaccinated last,” said Rosendo So, chair of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura. “They are unlike other private employees who may be vaccinated at the expense of their companies since agriculture is not institutionalized.”
Medical front-liners, senior citizens and those with existing illnesses would be prioritized for the vaccine, the Department of Health said.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said no vaccines had been set aside for the farmers yet.
“No vaccines yet [for the farmers] but this is our stand. [The DA] will follow the guidelines set by the national government in relation to who should be vaccinated [first]. But I will also make representations in the vaccine committee. I will work toward it,” he said.
Magsasaka party list Rep. Argen Cabatbat earlier said farmers should get the same treatment as medical practitioners and uniformed personnel, noting the farmers’ vital role in ensuring that the country remains food-secure.
“All throughout the pandemic, the agricultural sector has fought tooth and nail to help our nation survive. Their dedication, despite the overwhelming odds stacked against them—in government funding and assistance, legislation and competition—gives them the right to be prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine,” he said.
Raul Montemayor, chair of the Federation of Free Farmers, said most farmers were already under the impression that they would not be prioritized. INQ
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