There is hope in the horizon amidst the gloom that many people today are experiencing because of the pandemic. We still have to come to grips with the realization of how our lives and the people around us have changed — loved ones lost, livelihoods dissipated, institutions wracked by divisions; even the profound question as to what are we here for and what meaning is there to life given the things we have seen, heard and felt through these past fifteen months. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the world as we knew it before the pandemic is now way back in the history books; that the “normality” that people have been talking about in the wistful thinking that the pandemic is but a hump on the road and that the world would be the same as before is just that – mere wistful thinking. Yet our humanity is built basically on hope and that hope for now is getting the vaccine against COVID19.
First let us take note that coming up with a vaccine for COVID is itself a wonder of modern medical science. The fact that it was done in about a year’s time from discovery, to production and to getting it to people’s arms is unprecedented and never done before since Edward Jenner, an English country doctor in 1796 performed the world’s first vaccination. The current level of vaccination for COVID in which the United States is leading the world with more than half of its population receiving at least one dose indicate that vaccination works and that people who have it are not only protected but themselves are no longer a threat to their fellow human beings as spreader of the virus. What we mean to say is for people to be more aware of the information on vaccines that they may have seen or heard, especially on social media that may impinge on their acceptance or favorable attitude on vaccination as the solution to the pandemic.
This brings us to our main point and that is how our transportation workers should be getting the vaccines and why they are considered essential workers who should be on top of the list as compared to the general population. Out there in Canada, the Ottawa Commissioner of Transportation made a strong case as to the need for transport workers to be on the priority list. He emphasized the essential role transit employees play during the pandemic, “They provide the transportation and mobility for other essential workers to actually get to their jobs. I think we need to emphasize and recognize the work that they’re doing and the role it plays in our city’s ability to function.” I would have wished that our very own Department of Transportation would have made the same strong representation to our Inter-Agency Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) as well as in the press to highlight what have been the critical role that our transport workers have played and are playing to get us out of this pandemic.
Hence, I give my kudos to our good Mayor of Quezon City, Joy Belmonte, who in her public pronouncements have been vocal about pushing for vaccination among transportation workers who have been unheralded as essential workers deserving of help and assistance. The Quezon City government set up a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination site for transport workers two weeks ago, as the city aimed to vaccinate over 200 tricycle drivers and food delivery riders on Labor Day. According to Mayor Joy, “Our objective is to expedite vaccination because they ferry people every-day. To make it faster, they can just pass through and get vaccinated. They do not need to wait one and a half hours. It will not be operational the whole time. If a certain number of transport drivers are booked for a certain day, once we allow the A4 category to get vaccinated, then we will activate the drive through.”
So, I call on our government authorities as well as concerned people out there to reach out and inform our transport workers and personnel on why it is important to be vaccinated and how to get the vaccines. I know that we may be looking for a longer window in this case, maybe months still, but our transport people must first register as eligible vaccine candidates on top of the A4 priority listing for vaccination. According to Cabinet Secretary Nograles speaking on behalf of IATF, “It can be done through online registration or you can go to your LGUS. The LGUs have been advised about the definition of A4 (frontline personnel in essential sectors). You can call the LGUs and get the details on how to register. It is safer to register online. At least you will know if you are included (in the priorities). If you register online, you will choose your category. The LGUs will then verify if what you are saying is true”.
The government’s pandemic task force has approved the list of workers who belong to A4 or economic frontliners, the sector below healthcare personnel (A1), senior citizens (A2), and persons with comorbidities or health risks (A3) in terms or priority.