PHARMACISTS and other personnel in private drug stores that serve as Covid-19 vaccination centers must receive the benefits granted to health workers under the 2022 national budget and other laws, Senator Joel Villanueva said.

Frontline health workers fighting against Covid-19 should be entitled to and receive every benefit that the government can provide, he added.

"It is their right, and the very least we can do to honor their dedication to end the pandemic,” the chair of the Senate labor and employment committee said.

“If they get infected while doing their work, they should get free medical care and receive monetary compensation. This is what the law and common decency tells us to do,” Villanueva said.

Under the General Appropriation Act for 2022, healthcare workers who get sick with Covid-19 will receive P15,000 in compensation for mild or moderate cases, P100,000 for severe or critical, and P1 million if resulting in death.

While workers in private pharmacies are not demanding pay for “the valuable public service they will be doing, it behooves upon the government, however, to offer them some form of honorarium,” Villanueva said.

“Let’s emphasize the ‘honor’ in the ‘honorarium,’ considering the risks they face at work,” he said.

Villanueva said that can be sourced from the P51 billion in the 2022 national budget for Covid-19 duty pay and medical care of public and private healthcare workers.

Some P9 billion of that amount is “immediately releasable,” he said, while the P42 billion can be financed by excess revenues or new loans.

To entice more people to get vaccinated, the government has tapped selected private drugstores as vaccination sites, with pharmacists administering the vaccine.

Villanueva hailed the move “as a good way of getting more people jabbed by making it easily accessible to the community and hopefully, not a day-long ordeal.”

“The more professionals joining the bakuna brigade, the sooner we’ll be able to meet our goal of inoculating 100 percent of the target population by the first week of May, and the sooner they get back to a healthy working environment,” he said.