A BUSINESS process outsourcing (BPO) workers group said the industry’s workers need to be bumped up the vaccine priority list, noting that its workers remain excluded from the A4 category, which is entitled to inoculation starting next month.

The BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) said that workers in the outsourcing sector remain at risk for contracting the virus because many works on site. Essential workers in the A4 vaccination priority group could have access to vaccines by June, the Health department said.

“BPO workers do not work face to face with our clients but it doesn’t mean we are immune from the virus especially those who are working onsite. Not all clients and accounts (allow) work at home arrangements,” BIEN Vice-President for Externals Sarah Prestoza said in a statement Thursday.

BIEN has been asking the government to include outsourcing workers in the A4 category, noting that the sector continued some on site operations during the strictest phase of the lockdown.

“The government must speed up its distribution and inoculation so vaccines don’t go to waste. There are sectors like us that are waiting in vain to be vaccinated while BPO workers and the industry strive to keep the economy afloat,” Ms. Prestoza added.

“Seemingly, there are sufficient doses of vaccines to inoculate the 1.3 million BPO workers in the whole country. It’s just a matter of formulating the right policy and then executing the vaccination and distribution plan with a sense of urgency.”

The group noted COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) outbreaks in various outsourcing hubs, including 255 cases in Baguio and 105 cases in Iloilo, since January.

BIEN has written to the Health department to appeal for inclusion in the A4 list but has not yet received a response.

A hundred outsourcing firms are expecting COVID-19 vaccine deliveries for employees starting this quarter after signing agreements involving the National Government and private sector groups, the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) said last week.

IBPAP partnered with the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. Foundation to procure a million doses of the Moderna vaccine for employees and their dependents.

The government cut its inoculation target to 50 million individuals by the end of this year from the previous goal of up to 70 million due to global supply constraints. — Jenina P. Ibañez