COVID-19 vaccination in Davao Region remains a challenge as some religious leaders continue to prohibit their members from getting vaccinated.

Davao City Covid-19 Task Force Spokesperson Dr. Michelle Schlosser said in a radio interview on Friday, January 28, 2022, that she is aware of this matter.

Schlosser said that one of her staff remains unvaccinated due to the latter's stand against vaccination.

"I was so surprised kay naa diay ing-ana (to learn that there is still such thing). I really thought it was just hearsay. But we continue to have dialogues with churches and tribal leaders para mas mapasabot sa ilaha kung unsa gyud ka-importante ang bakuna (for them to understand the importance of the vaccines)," she said in an interview on 87.5 FM Davao City Disaster Radio.

She added that some members are willing to be vaccinated but are allegedly being prevented by their church leaders from doing so.

Schlosser emphasized the importance of achieving 100-percent herd immunity, as this would give protection not only to a certain individual but also to the community.

Department of Interior and Local Government-Davao Region (DILG-Davao) Director Alex Roldan told SunStar Davao in a phone interview that a certain religious group, composed of some members of the indigenous peoples (IP), personally sent a letter to their office asking that their members be exempted from the vaccination program.

Roldan revealed that their group said getting vaccinated is against their religious belief.

He said their concern was raised during a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF). But the IATF rejected their appeal, saying the program will have no exemption, except for medical reason.

"If dili sila mo-avail [sa vaccination], iyaha manang katungod. Pero dili sila exempted sa rules on health protocols," Roldan said.

(If they won’t avail of the vaccination, that is their right. But they are not exempted from the rules on health protocols.)

President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday, January 24, 2022, that some Muslim Filipinos in Mindanao have refused to get vaccinated due to their beliefs.

Roldan said this is a different case in Davao Region, although he admitted that there are still concerns in vaccination logistics in the far-flung areas.

He said he already instructed the local government units to intensify their mobile vaccination within communities.

Schlossser, meanwhile, said the city has not received any similar appeal from certain sectors.

She also said a certain sector cannot be exempted from the vaccination as they are still vulnerable to getting infected by the virus.

"Kung i-exempt man gud nato ni sila (If we exempt them), they are part of the community. Once dili bakunado ang isa sa mga miyembro sa komunidad (a certain member of the community is unvaccinated), and we still have this virus, pag ma-infect sila (if they might be infected), they will contaminate the entire community," Schlossser said.

The health official cited the incident in Barangay Buda, Marilog District September 2021, wherein a secretly held religious activity resulted in a Covid-19 outbreak after nearly a hundred religious members of two different church groups tested positive for the virus.

Some religious leaders, who are vocal in their opposition to the vaccination program, had also been reported to have been under critical condition after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Tagum City Mayor Allan Rellon said in a radio interview some religious leaders had also opposed the mayor's Executive Order (EO) 2022-003 that mandated all public and private establishments to require their on-site employees to be vaccinated against the Covid-19. Rellon issued the EO on January 24.

The mayor clarified that refusal to be vaccinated will not result in termination, however, unvaccinated employees will be subject to regular reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) Covid-19 testing, which will be shouldered by the employee.

Rellon added that a religious group had even requested a dialogue following the recent issuance of the EO.

While the mayor respected their religious belief, he emphasized that his order is for the protection of everyone.