BALANCE freedom with responsibility.
Completing the two doses of vaccine for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) does not mean one is completely protected from being infected or infecting others.
In a June 11 virtual press conference, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire cautioned senior citizens who have received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to still observe safety protocols when they leave their homes, reported SunStar Cebu on Saturday, June 12, 2021.
Remember that you can still get infected and you can still transmit the disease, said Vergeire in emphasizing the importance of still limiting face-to-face interactions.
For the greater good, it is important to contextualize the current state of the vaccination campaign and resolve the often conflicting messages coming from different stakeholders linking the ongoing vaccination with the re-opening of the economy.
According to the May 25 data of the DOH, 1,029,061 Filipinos have received the full two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. This represents about 1 percent of the national population.
About 3.19 percent, or 3,466,314 Filipinos, have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, Rappler reported, quoting DOH monitoring as of May 25. Mass vaccination in the country began on March 1, 2021.
To reach herd immunity, which means the vaccinated population is significant enough to protect those who are not vaccinated, 70 percent of the countrys population, or 70 million Filipinos, must receive both vaccine doses.
The government is targeting to fully vaccinate 50 million Filipinos by the end of 2021.
The Philippines is the second to the last country in Southeast Asia in terms of the percentage of population that have been vaccinated at least once, Rappler reported on May 27.
What slows down the vaccination program? Vaccine hesitancy continues to keep many citizens away from the vaccination centers. Insufficient supplies of the vaccine force the government to prioritize groups for vaccination.
Many citizens also prefer a specific vaccine brand, a demand that is hard to fulfill given the scarcity of supply.
Many of those who belong to the A4 priority group of frontliners for essential services are discouraged by the difficulty of getting an online appointment, queuing for hours outside a vaccination center, and losing income due to the necessity of going on leave or being absent from work to get the vaccine.
These myriad impediments to the vaccination program should be included as context when the government and economic stakeholders announce that those who have been completely vaccinated can now circulate in areas placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) or modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
Some authorities, including religious leaders, point out that the elderly need to socialize or join religious services in person after more than a year of being unable to leave their homes. A person’s well-being can be jeopardized by exposure to Covid-19.
Businessmen look to the elderly for restarting the economy, reported SunStar Cebu on June 12. Retirees are valued patrons in dining places, which are hard-hit by the community lockdowns.
Vergeire encourages the elderly to prioritize their circulation in public for essential reasons, such as exercise ideally conducted in open spaces and away from crowds.
The DOH and other stakeholders must have a consistent stance on and plan for educating all citizens about the opportunities and limitations created by vaccination.
To magnify this public health message, the press and the social media must update Filipinos about the status of the mass vaccination, providing the context and explanations to make citizens understand the significance behind vaccination statistics and implications on individual decisions and actions for protecting public safety.