Editorial: Unvaxxed Central Visayas residents must get their Covid-19 vax jabs -Sunstar

VACCINE hesitancy was the reason behind Central Visayas ranking fourth among 17 regions in the Philippines with the highest number of unvaccinated individuals, Visayas Vaccination Operations Center (VVOC) spokesperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche pointed out.

Central Visayas, as of Dec. 1, 2021, had 2,180,383 million unvaccinated individuals out of the region’s population of 5,638,340 eligible for vaccination, according to the national Vaccination Operations Reporting System.

Dr. Loreche is optimistic that the number of unvaccinated individuals will go down because of Central Visayas’ participation in the first round of the nationwide vaccination drive, which was originally set on Nov. 29-Dec. 1, but extended until Dec. 3.

Workers who had not been jabbed before the start of the three-day nationwide vaccination days drive may have been pushed to get their Covid-19 vaccine jabs after hearing the news that they must show a negative RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test result if they want to enter their workplaces.

The submission of a negative RT-PCR test result is required every two weeks, according to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases memo that was recently relayed by IATF chief implementer for the Visayas Melquiades Feliciano to Cebu City Emergency Operations Center (EOC) deputy chief implementer Councilor Joel Garganera and other EOCs in Visayas.

According to a SunStar Cebu report, partially vaccinated employees who missed the schedule for the second dose are also required to submit a negative RT-PCR test result every two weeks until they get fully vaccinated, but on-site workers may report to work without the negative result if they can present the schedule of their second dose and this dose is not yet due.

The IATF memo read: “During your (employee) absence because of your failure to submit proof of vaccination and/or a negative RT-PCR test result, such absences will be automatically charged to your remaining sick leave (SL) credits. In the event that sick leaves are no longer available, the company may apply your available vacation leaves (VL). In case neither SL nor VL is available, the no-work no-pay rule shall apply.”

IATF Resolution 148-B says antigen tests may be resorted to when RT-PCR capacity is insufficient or not available.

The employers will not shoulder the costs of Covid-19 tests that range from P900 to P3,200.

This requirement for unvaxxed on-site workers was possibly thought of by the IATF as it could not push for mandatory vaccination as there is no existing law implementing it. Forcing a person to do something against the person’s will is unlawful.

The IATF officials could have been grinning at news reports that unvaccinated employees rushed to vax sites to get their jabs on Nov. 29. The unvaccinated workers were excused from work per President Rodrigo Duterte’s proclamation for the National Vaccination Days.

Getting an RT-PCR test is no cheap candy for employees who only receive a minimum wage, and this could be the reason that jolted them from the state of hesitancy and pushed them to visit vaccination sites.

Despite health experts’ assurance that all vaccines given the go-ahead by the World Health Organization are safe, there are still people who are hesitant to get their jabs. Some also are devout anti-vaxxers who devote time to preach their gospel about the “evils” of Covid-19 vaccines.

CNN reported that prominent Christian televangelist and anti-vaccine advocate Marcus Lamb died after being hospitalized with Covid-19, his family announced Tuesday, Nov. 29 (US time). Lamb’s wife said he had diabetes but was healthy and was hospitalized after being diagnosed with Covid-19. Lamb’s son went on the television show on behalf of his ailing father, and he said his father’s diagnosis was a “spiritual attack from the enemy.”

Vaccine hesitancy is a “pandemic” itself. It is anywhere in the world, not just in Cebu City, Cebu Province, Central Visayas and the rest of the Philippines. Just a reminder to anti-vaxxers and vaccine-hesitant people: Not believing the health experts could lead to fatal consequences.

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