We join President Rodrigo Duterte in his urgent call on Filipinos to get COVID-19 booster shots, which underlined the urgency after the Department of Education (DepEd) encouraged personnel and learners to participate in the national government’s vaccination drive which has expanded to the pediatric population.
The call has been made as health authorities were saying the National Capital Region or Metro Manila was ready in case it shifts to a more relaxed classification of Alert Level 2 by February.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has said the vaccination coverage in the metropolis is good and there is confidence the authorities can properly implement minimum public health standards.
Last Monday, the Philippines logged 24,938 new cases for a total of 3.4 million confirmed cases, 53,519 deaths, and 3.1 million recovered cases.
DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones aptly said: “Vaccination is one of the essential keys towards protecting our communities and our children against the threats of COVID-19. With additional protection for our stakeholders, we can further implement our safe-return-to-schools initiatives while helping our economy recover.
“Together with our teachers and learners, DepEd will continue to be a part of our government’s whole-of-nation approach against COVID-19.”
The President’s call appeared as a clarification to his statement last September, when only 21 million Filipinos had been vaccinated and the government had yet to approve booster jabs.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the video clip of that September statement should be viewed in the proper context, adding “The situation today is now vastly different. Last November, upon the recommendation of our health experts, the government approved the use of booster doses for all fully vaccinated individuals as we had ample supplies of vaccines and a substantial percentage of our population was already fully vaccinated.”
Nograles also noted that the President last Dec. 21 urged the public to “take advantage” of the sufficient supply of vaccines and get boosters to dodge the highly transmissible omicron COVID-19 variant.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque II himself said there was “clear evidence” that COVID-19 booster shots provided additional protection against the virus, stressing at a public hearing “Let us not allow ourselves to be used for fake news or information that lacks basis.”
About 57.2 million Filipinos have been fully inoculated against COVID-19 and at least 6.2 million have received vaccine top-ups.
DepEd has urged its field offices and schools to cooperate with their respective local government units about the continuous vaccination drive for young children and education front-liners.
Starting the last quarter of 2021, minors aged 12-17 years old have been allowed to receive their coronavirus shots.
Briones also encouraged teachers and non-teaching personnel to take their booster shots once eligible.
“We are reminding our personnel and offices to not wait since local government units are already vaccinating and giving Covid-19 jabs to their constituents,” she said.
Meanwhile, the department said existing arrangements on the use of schools as vaccination sites will be maximized.
Schools that were previously used as vaccination sites are highly encouraged to reopen for pediatric vaccination. (ai/mtvn)