Green Groups Seek IATF Nod for Waste Workers’ Inclusion in COVID-19 Vaccine Priority List (Expanded A4 category among priority population groups must include environmental frontliners, too)


17 April 2021, Quezon City.  Several green groups insisted that the unsung environmental frontliners, particularly waste workers, must also be considered as a priority sector for COVID-19 vaccination.

Through a letter sent yesterday to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), the pro-environment groups, including community-based organizations of informal waste recyclers, roundly appealed for the vaccine prioritization of workers involved in the management of municipal solid waste, healthcare waste, commercial and industrial waste, and hazardous waste.

“We hope the IATF will positively act on our collective appeal and include the environmental frontliners from the waste management sector as a priority population group for the ongoing immunization program,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Ensuring early access to COVID-19 vaccine will undeniably provide health and economic benefits to our waste workers and their families,” she said.  “Access to COVID-19 vaccine, especially for the marginalized groups, is health and economic justice.”

"Sandatang maituturing ang bakuna laban sa COVID-19 ng mga manggagawa sa sektor ng basura na hindi inaalintana ang hirap sa peligrosong trabaho.  Bilang pagkilala sa aming mahalagang serbisyong pangkalikasan ay maisama nawa kami ng IATF sa mga prayoridad na sektor upang kagyat na mabakunahan at maprotektahan," said Joanna Amican of the Nagkakaisang Lakas ng mga Mangangalakal sa Longos, Malabon City.

The groups cited five key reasons to justify the further expansion of the COVID-19 A4 category vaccine priority list to include the environmental frontliners from the waste management sector:
  1. Waste workers perform essential service to the community and the environment.
  2. Waste workers are engaged in a high risk job that may involve contact with materials and surfaces possibly contaminated with SARS-CoV-2.
  3. Low levels of waste segregation at source increase waste workers’ exposure to  infectious waste.   
  4. Waste workers are prone to occupational health risks resulting from mixed waste disposal, their manual handling of waste, and their lack of protective gear.
  5. Lockdowns to contain the spread of COVID-19 have seriously disrupted the work of informal waste workers who are meager daily wage earners, pushing them further into hunger and poverty. 
Informal waste workers who stand to benefit from early vaccination against the disease if the A4 category is further expanded by the IATF include waste pickers or reclaimers, itinerant waste buyers, jumpers at collection trucks, e-waste dismantlers, junk shop owners and others engaged in the recovery of recyclable materials to generate income. 

Formal waste workers who could also benefit from prompt inoculation include waste collection crew, waste truck drivers, street sweepers and other waste and sanitation workers employed by local government units, waste management companies, homeowners’ associations, etc.

Based on the survey conducted by waste workers’ groups, their members are, by and large, keen to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect themselves from the dreadful disease, and to ensure their income and food security.

For instance, of the 337 individuals who participated in the said survey, 246 (94 female and 152 male) would like to receive the vaccine and 302 (129 female and 173 male) favor putting waste workers on the priority vaccine recipient list.

Aside from the EcoWaste Coalition, the aforecited letter to the IATF was signed by the Nagkakaisang Lakas ng mga Mangangalakal sa Longos  Malabon City; Samahan ng mga Mangangalakal sa Capulong, Tondo, Manila;  Samahan ng mga Mangangalakal sa San Vicente Ferrer, Camarin, Caloocan City;  Samahan ng mga Mangangalakal sa Bagong Silang, Caloocan City; and the Gagmay'ng Kristohanong Katilingban (GKK) Lihok Pagtinabangay Multipurpose Cooperative Inayawan, Cebu City.

Break Free from Plastic PH, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Mother Earth Foundation, Oceana Philippines, and War on Waste Negros Oriental also endorsed the appeal for waste workers’ prioritization in the government’s vaccination program.


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