Barangay health workers in the Cordillera are sustaining their advocacy for residents in their respective communities to get themselves and their family members vaccinated as protection against vaccine-preventable diseases.
Divina Pakoy, president of the BHW Federation Cordillera, said with BHWs having been tapped as health education program officers (HEPO), they are now using a BHW reference manual that spells out their roles and responsibilities as advocates of health programs in their barangays, which include educating the public on the importance and benefits of vaccination.
The reference manual crafted by the Department of Health was discussed among BHWs during their convention in Baguio City on Dec. 18 where they underwent a “post-test” to assess their knowledge of their roles as BHW-HEPO.
Pakoy, a BHW serving her third term as a kagawad in Barangay GEFA-Lower QM, said they have been continuing the intensified information and education campaign which was started during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, where people did not want to be vaccinated because of the effects of the Dengvaxia scare.
She said they had to develop a communication strategy to boost their IEC since most of the community members feared they will die when they get vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus.
“Not until nagkaroon ng intensified education and information dissemination sa aming barangay at buong Baguio at Cordillera, kung saan nagkaron na ng influx ng gustong magpabakuna at umabot pa sa puntong kami na ang inaaway sa barangay kung bakit hindi sila ang inuuna, bakit mauunang mabakunahan ang mga may co-morbidity at BHW. Parang na-internalize na nila na para sa ikakabuti nila ang pagbabakuna,” Pakoy said.
To convince them, Pakoy said BHWs had to document themselves getting vaccinated and show a proof to residents that they are indeed vaccinated and nothing bad happened to them.
“We walked our talk. Kami mismong mga BHW dapat ay nagpabakuna. Hindi pwedeng sabihan namin silang magpabakuna eh kami hindi (bakunado). We reiterate the benefits ng bakuna at saka nakita nila ang consequence ng hindi vaccinated, that they cannot go there, you cannot go out, you stay. Parang ito ang isang naging motivation,” Pakoy said, adding the elders or senior citizens are also among those who are receptive to getting inoculated.
The problem then was, many residents preferred the Pfizer and AstraZeneca brands and did not like Sinovac. “Pero noong naipaliwanag at naintindihan nila ang strength (effectivity) nito, they also already preferred Sinovac.”
She however said there are still those who are bent on not taking vaccines due to cultural reasons and personal beliefsand they cannot force them, though BHWs still do their best to convince them through IEC.
BHWs Rowena Nieva of Honeymoon barangay, Roselda Taguibos of Camdas, and Pilita Alcantara of Imelda Village share the passion for selfless service in volunteer capacity in helping improve the health of community members in their respective barangays.
They see to it that the they include IEC on the importance of vaccination in community meetings, when doing house visits, and even until when they were elected as barangay kagawad where they handle the health and sanitation committee that allow them to continue their advocacy for health programs and strengthen the community’s support for vaccination not only against the Covid-19 but especially against diseases “from womb to tomb”.
“May mga ka-barangay ako na nagsabing wala namang nangyari sa mga anak nilang hindi bakunado. But I explained to them na iba na ang panahon ngayon, iba yung panahon noon. Noon, walang nagpupursige na pumupunta upang kumbinsehin sila na habang dumadami ang tao sa mundo, dumadami rin ang mga sakit na dumarating, kailangang pabakunahan ang mga anak n’yo, para kahit paano may lumalaban para sa katawannila.
Kung mahal nyo ang mga anak ninyo, dapat ibigay n’yo ang para sa kanila. Kung magkasakit sila, hindi natin alam kung anong sakit ito. When Covid-19 happened, we were not prepared, perolumaban pa rin naman tayo,” Nieva said.
Pakoy added the work of a BHW includes every aspect in a human’s life cycle.
“Lahat tinutukan. It is not just during birth. We see them and walk along them as they grow, we follow up their vaccines if they are able to get them regularly, and we realize later that they already are in high school. And it is nice knowing they have confidence that we BHWs are able to give and deliver the right services and information to them,” Pakoy said.
She added in support of their services, they are pushing for sufficient benefits and incentives for BHWs, especially in the Cordillera where there are many of them who receive meager stipend despite the risk they face in reaching out to individuals in far-flung areas.
“In other provinces, there are those who are receiving support from their respective district representatives or mayors, and other LGUs subsidize BHWs’ PhilHealth coverage. But we are lobbying for a P3,000 across the board incentive for BHWs in the Magna Carta for BHWs. Because right now, there are those who only receive P150 in the Cordillera, particularly those in mountainous areas who walk mountains to mountains, so their situation is difficult,” Nieva said.
“So, really ang BHW hindi mo matatawaran ang sacrifice sa work kasi kapag nasa puso ‘yan, kahit gaano kalayo, it’s not the amount that counts pero if you learn that there are budget being downloaded for your LGU and it does not reach you, parang masakit sa loob, na sana help us. Iparating sana sa amin.” – Hanna C. Lacsamana