FINDING BALANCE IN THE VACCINATION DRIVE
We find relief in reports based on latest tallies of the Department of Health showing a downtrend in Covid-19 cases and related deaths nationwide, sparking hopes the virus causing this pandemic may already be weakening and further transmission may stop soon.
This hope however is being quashed by the emergence and threats of the Omicron variant, and even though the entire country has been placed on lower alert levels until Dec. 15, it makes us worry about a possible resurgence of cases like what is happening now in other countries thought to have succeeded in putting cases at bay.
We agree with the initial assessment and recommendation by the national Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases itself that lowering the level of threat and easing of restrictions nationwide have to be carefully considered to avert case surges that may even break the highest record the country has so far recorded in September driven by the Delta variant.
Remember that a lull when the virus remains in our midst should drive us to further caution, knowing the outrageous behavior of this unseen enemy.
We call for the IATF to retain this caution and ensure strict enforcement of minimum public health protocols at all times and levels of local government units in the event it decides to further lower the alert levels beyond Dec. 15.
We should no longer court a repeat of the thousands of daily cases we have recorded that period that brought the country’s total number of Covid-19 cases to 2,835,996 as of Dec. 9.
With only seven cases of death and averaging less than a thousand new cases daily according to the latest DOH case bulletin during the first nine days of this month, pushing our hopes further for zero cases should be our next target.
We therefore understand sectors that require employees in the case of business establishments and LGUs allowing only fully vaccinated travelers into their premises as it is their way of preventing the entry of possible virus carriers or spread of severe cases of Covid-19.
It indeed puts any government in a quandary, because it cannot mandate all citizens to get vaccinated or it would violate existing laws and human rights. Such predicament is evident in the confusion caused by two IATF resolutions stating that “in areas where vaccine supplies are sufficient, establishment and employers in the public and private sector must require their on-site employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19.”
It also provides that workers who are still unvaccinated may not be terminated but will be required to undergo RT-PCR tests regularly at their own expense for purposes of on-site work.
A senator pointed out the resolutions are contrary to Department of Labor and Employment Advisory 3, s. 2021 that expressly states “no vaccine, no work policy shall not be allowed, and that there should be no discrimination or termination for employees who refuse or fail to be vaccinated and instead must be encouraged by their employers to do the same.”
The House Committee on Labor and Employment shares the same stand, saying it will not push for mandatory vaccination but is instead encouraging people by explaining the pros and cons of taking the vaccines.
We believe one’s right to make the choice for one’s health based on their convictions or religious practices should not be trampled upon by anyone, even by the government, by forcing on people something against their beliefs.
But as public health has seen through almost two years of pandemic and is further at risk due to new Covid-19 variants that keep on cropping, how do we achieve the balance? Can we stop those who do not want to get sick from protecting themselves from unvaccinated and potential virus carriers? How can those who do not believe in vaccines assure the public they will not endanger others?
As of Dec. 5, the government has administered a total of 91.7 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, 56.7 million of which are first doses. So far, the country now has more than 38 million fully vaccinated Filipinos. The DOH said the government targets to complete the vaccination of 54 million before the year ends, and is planning another round of three-day national inoculation on Dec. 15 to 17.
While it remains debatable whether the vaccines have something to do with the decreasing number of Covid-19 cases, we cannot deny the layer of protection it afford on a personal level and on a larger scale, given the number who opted to take the shot.
In finding the balance, we hope we keep our sights on zero Covid-19 cases or finding the best and safest way of living with the virus.