The government’s plan to restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals to purportedly prevent boosting the spike in infections from the coronavirus (Covid-19) disease flies in the face of science and human rights.

Global public health stakeholders hold that the Omicron variant “will spread more quickly than the original SARS-COV-2 virus,” with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) claiming that “anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms,” according to a post on its official website cdc.gov.

The Cebu City Government will compile a list of unvaccinated individuals in 10 pilot barangays, reported SunStar Cebu on Jan. 12, 2022.

One hopes that the inventory of the unvaccinated will be used by the Cebu City Government and other local government units (LGUs) to implement more assiduously its vaccination program.

The data about the unvaccinated should not be misused by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to restrict the movement of unvaccinated individuals as a response to the increasing cases of Omicron infection, as recently ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Authorities may view their power to enforce checkpoints and lockdowns as a quick, decisive, and pro-active response to the pandemic.

Two years of the pandemic underscore the ineffectiveness of social restrictions compared to vaccination in managing Covid-19.

Officials should use the data about unvaccinated persons to implement strategies responding to the obstacles preventing people from seeking vaccination.

Vaccine hesitancy may be due to many factors, which interrelate and create a complex social dilemma. Local officials should not overgeneralize and assume that people remain unvaccinated because all are opposed to the vaccine and minimize the threat of Covid-19.

Whether real or imagined, lack of access is a barrier to getting the vaccine. This may be actual, as in the case of Florencia, a mother of three children who is unable to leave with a neighbor or relative so she can queue up at the vax center. Her partner has a day-off only every fortnight, which always falls on a Sunday. The family of five is dependent on her partner working and earning so staying home and becoming unpaid even for a day is not an option for him.

Marisol’s lack of access to vaccination is due to her partner’s perceptions. He does not want her leaving their home. The partner argues that Marisol does not need to get vaccinated since she rarely leaves their house and he is vaccinated against Covid-19.

Michael’s lack of access to getting a vax appointment is also both actual and imagined. Working at odd jobs, he is not computer-literate. He is unable to register online for his vax appointment.

Giving access to the vaccines means that private employers and other stakeholders must support the government drive for vaccination by giving employees paid leave to queue up for vaccination and recover from debilitating side effects.

For the informal sector, though, these safety nets are not available. Michael juggles the daily challenges of finding work and earning to meet his family’s needs. Compared to the struggle to survive, the threats of being infected with Covid-19 and infecting others may pale in Michael’s priorities.

Florencia and Marisol bear the burdens of women dependent on their partners and lacking the social support system that eases the demands of child-minding and housekeeping. Marisol accepts and normalizes the masculinist domination that regiments women’s bodies, health, and well-being.

To claim that persons like Florencia, Marisol, and Michael are just uneducated and stubborn against Covid-19 vaccination and to penalize them by adding a new set of restrictions for the unvaccinated to the already preexisting barriers of class and gender is to pile on another form of social injustice against a sector already made vulnerable in the pandemic.