CEBU, Philippines — The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has directed local government units to be proactive in seeking unvaccinated residents, as well as those eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot, following the detection of the Omicron BA.4 subvariant in the Philippines.
DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said in a statement that BA.4 poses a threat to public health as it can evade immune protection from vaccination and prior infection.
Año said LGUs must maximize their resources and scour its jurisdiction to urge those still unvaccinated to get the COVID vaccine and to encourage those eligible to get the booster shot “as a precautionary measure versus a more transmissible Omicron variant and possible community transmission.”
“We direct all LGUs to be proactive in its vaccination efforts and seek these people who are eligible for inoculation. The Department of Health’s (DOH) detection of BA.4 signals the need for a more aggressive action to ensure that the people are vaccinated and protected against this highly contagious variant of COVID-19,” Año said.
The subvariant of the highly transmissible Omicron was detected from a Filipino citizen who flew in to the Philippines from the Middle East on May 4, 2022. The patient was confirmed positive with the more transmissible variant from a specimen collected on May 8, 2022. He was asymptomatic.
Año said that despite the transition of power to the newly-elected officials, LGUs must be ready to mobilize all its resources to identify citizens who are eligible for vaccination and booster shots in the face of the Omicron subvariant.
He said BA.4’s ability for faster transmission must be countered by improved vaccination turnout especially for people who are immunocompromised and vulnerable.
He also underscored that even the vaccinated must be urged to get booster shots as the said variant can evade COVID-19 vaccination, especially if its efficacy waned over time.
“Kung kinakailangang katukin ang bawat bahay para malaman kung sino ang dapat bakunahan, iyan po ang gawin natin,” he said.
Año said LGUs must tap its established pandemic health units such as the Local COVID-19 Task Forces (LCTFs) and the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs) to aid the efforts of vaccinating more individuals “avoiding spike of cases which can be detrimental to our health system.”
The DILG has also directed LGUs to create LCTFs during the onset of the pandemic in 2020 to enable them to monitor and analyze COVID-19 data and to better address the issues and concerns of their constituents during the coronavirus health crisis.
LGUs were, likewise, directed to activate their BHERTs in 2020 to conduct visits in the homes of individuals possibly inflicted with COVID-19; initiate contact-tracing; and, report, on a daily basis, the condition of prospective and confirmed COVID-19 cases, among others.
Año further said that LGUs have the existing tools to help them in identifying their constituents who must be vaccinated. We hope na gamitin nila ito to their advantage para mas marami pa ang mabakunahan,” he said further.
Low coverage with Booster
In Central Visayas, Even as the first booster shots were rolled out in October 2021, coverage remains low eight months later at 16.8 percent.
Data from the Visayas Vaccination Operations Center (VVOC) showed that only 656,624 of the 3,914,083 fully vaccinated individuals in the region have received the first booster.
Up to 202,535 of those boosted come from the A4 category or essential workers while 148,345 come from the adult population.
At least 105,998 are immunocompromised while 80,878 are frontline workers. Up to 81,815 senior citizens have received the first booster.
Breaking down by provinces and highly urbanized areas, none of local government units in the region have vaccinated 50 percent of its eligible population with the first booster.
Siquijor leads in the number of boosted residents with 31.4 percent or 18,695 of its 59,535 fully vaccinated individuals. The island province is followed by Mandaue City in Cebu with 26.7 percent or 78,830 of its 294,853 fully vaccinated residents.
Cebu City follows with 24.9 percent or 162,507 of its 652,584 eligible adult population and Lapu-Lapu City with 15.1 percent or 50,059 of its 332,330 fully vaccinated residents.
Negros Oriental, for its part, has given the first booster to 15 percent of its eligible population or 83,351 of its 556,209 fully vaccinated residents. Bohol has given the booster to 14 percent or 86,775 of its 620,785 fully vaccinated residents and Cebu Province has administered the shot to 12.6 percent or 176,407 of its 1,397,787 residents eligible for the vaccine.
The region’s number for the second booster shot is even way lower at 0.2 percent as of this writing.
The second booster shot was made available a month before this writing for senior citizens and those who are immunocompromised.
The number of recipients is far less ideal at 1,470. Of this number, 758 are senior citizens, 208 are immunocompromised, 85 are under the A4 category, and 113 are under ROAP.
For people who are immunocompromised, the second booster shot can already be administered even just three months after the first booster was given. For those under the A1 and A2 categories, the shot can be given at least four months after the first booster.- Caecent No-ot magsumbol, JMO (FREEMAN)