THE Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases finally came to realize that local chief executives such as mayors, governors and Punong Barangays are "essential workers" and should therefore receive a higher classification in the priority list for those to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
It took, however, a request from the League of Cities or LCP headed by its President Bacolod City Mayor Bing Leonardia to convince the IATF that, "local chief executives are frontliners, and their risk of exposure to the coronavirus is 'high' when they perform their day-to-day duties."
According to the LCP with this re-classification in the priority list for vaccination the 1,634 provincial governors and city and municipal mayors as well as 42,046 barangay captains all over the country have been moved to Category A4 or "frontline personnel in essential sectors including uniformed personnel and those in working sectors identified by the IATF as essential during ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) of the Interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group."
This is only proper. In fact even the other barangay officials whether appointed or elected should also be included in the reclassification for the simple reason that they are necessarily conducting face to face engagement with their constituents almost on a daily basis since the pandemic began, and even before that. That is their function and responsibility, which is to implement local governance in the grassroots level. Now if that is not essential frontline services I don't know what is.
However, you would want to prioritize the criteria for those who should receive the available vaccines the local chief executives especially in the barangay level should receive the highest if not equal classification as that of frontline workers in health facilities that is on top of the priority list.
Why so? Quite simple really, from a standpoint of prevention, mitigation, containment and treatment local chief executives and barangay officials are at the forefront in trying to curb and reduce the spread of the virus in the communities where most of the population are located, unless we have groups of Filipino people now living beneath the seas. All communities or villages (barangays) in the country are manned almost 24/7 by barangay officials. In any given day you can expect individuals or groups of individuals trooping to the barangays halls and seeking the help or assistance of barangay officials. This is most especially true when large scale quarantines or lockdowns are imposed by local or national governments.
So if you want to talk about exposure to the virus at a high level, similar to doctors or nurses, then look no further than our barangays officials or local government chief executives and officers who are daily in contact and in face-to-face engagements with the people and the public.
These public servants are leading the way in attempting to halt the Covid-19 disease from overwhelming the communities. This is their critical job right now, prevention and mitigation.
For our medical frontliners, our doctors and nurses, they are also at the forefront in combating the virus. They offer treatment and the management of those already identified to be Covid-19 positive.
Thus one group is for prevention while the other group is for treatment. What is ironic is that because of the classification of those found to be Covid-positive (asymptomatic, mild, moderate, severe and critical), our barangay officials as well as those from our police and volunteer groups are also exercising duties in the management of those quarantined and isolated in the barangays that are infected with the virus. These brave public servants monitor and supervise the rest of the community so that they would not suffer the same fate as their "kabarangays" who are infected but still in their villages. These barangay officials and policemen likewise have the responsibility of seeing to the welfare of those under quarantine and lockdown.
Even if vaccines are limited the IATF should better understand how local governments officials, especially barangay officials, are risking a lot in the same way that doctors and nurses are also risking their health in treating Covid positive patients in their facilities and must therefore be accorded with a high priority in the classification for vaccination so that they can be further shielded from the virus.