Lunch break in the middle of a work week at a roadside eatery located at the North Reclamation Area of Cebu City seems to be a throwback of pre-pandemic days. The dining area is full, all tables seating an average of five persons, no masks or face shields in sight.
In a membership-only supermarket in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, prominent signs beside cashiers state that only fully vaccinated individuals can dine in. However, no employee asks dining members to present their vaccination cards.
A packed diner makes any entrepreneur happy except that these scenes take place while the country is still fighting the spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The Sta. Rosa lunchtime crowd significantly ballooned on Oct. 16, the first weekend when Metro Manila dowgraded its alert level status from 4 to 3. The supermarket is located along the highway to Tagaytay, a popular weekend destination.
The drop in the country’s cases of Covid-19 infections and the relaxation of community quarantine alerts in many places in the country have been welcomed by citizens made anxious by Covid-19 fatigue and entrepreneurs and workers reeling from the economic slowdown.
Yet, there are other patterns that all community stakeholders must note and heed if the country is to continue the seeming recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. The easing of lockdown restrictions is also accompanied by the slowing down of vaccination among the populace despite the availability of vaccines.
Last Oct. 11, the Department of Health (DOH) started the vaccination for the general adult population. On Oct. 15, the DOH began the vaccination of minors aged 12 to 17 years with comorbidities.
These developments are taking place because of the availability of more vaccines in the country.
Yet, as reported by SunStar Philippines and SunStar Cebu’s Philip A. Cerojano and Johanna O. Bajenting on Oct. 11, more than 23.18 million, representing only 30 percent of the target population aged 18 years or older in the country, have been fully vaccinated, based on the National Covid-19 Vaccination Dashboard.
The SunStar team reported that only 1,105 individuals in Metro Cebu received the vaccine on Oct. 10, which had a daily target of 19,692. On Oct. 8 and Oct. 9, the monitored vaccination figures were also far below the daily target.
Mandaue City, with 56.14 percent of its eligible population fully vaccinated, is the best performing local government unit, followed by the Lapu-Lapu City Government, which had fully vaccinated 48.26 percent of its target population.
The approaching Christmas holiday, traditionally marked by high spending, should make all stakeholders anticipate that more citizens will circulate in public; hence, the need to vaccinate more citizens and prevent a possible surge in infections, ideally before mid-November, when yearend bonuses and cash gifts will be given to employees.
LGUs need to tie up with employers to encourage or support their workers taking a leave to have their vaccines, as well as work with schools and academic associations to include students and other youths qualified to avail of the Covid-19 vaccines.
Authorities note that the vaccination of vulnerable populations among the elderly and persons with comorbidities has yet to meet DOH targets.
Visayas Vaccination Operations Center (VVOC) spokesperson Mary Jean Loreche urged citizens to be vaccinated and have a merry Christmas holiday.
Having the eligible population vaccinated may mean more than this: the easing of the burdens imposed on the country’s health workers and the entire health system; return of face-to-face classes; and the sustainability of employment and income generation activities to return the nation into the pink of health.
The push to vaccinate should not slacken at this critical juncture.