There is a moral somewhere in these tales of contrasts.

Vaccination hubs opening in malls are empty at most times. Social media posts about citizens getting booster shots are noticeably fewer. The photos also show no lines anymore.

In contrast, traffic has returned to pre-pandemic level. In congested highways, airports, and malls, face masks are still worn but many individuals are not observing proper usage: fully covered nose, mouth, and chin.

On social media, foreign vloggers returning to the country are exploring crowded malls, shopping districts, and beaches. Conspicuously, while Filipinos wear face masks, some of the foreign visitors don’t.

Officials of the Department of Health (DOH) said that these social trends make it more likely that the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) subvariant identified as Omicron subvariant B.2.12.1 may already be in Central Visayas, according to the May 20 report in SunStar Cebu of Mae Fhel K. Gom-os.

According to an Apr. 27 DOH press release, the agency detected the country’s first case of the Omicron subvariant B.2.12.1 in Baguio City. A foreigner arriving from Europe was asymptomatic and fully vaccinated so routine isolation at a quarantine facility was skipped.

Citing preliminary data, the same DOH press release stated that the Covid-19 subvariant mutations are “associated with higher transmissibility... (with) currently no evidence that these sublineages cause more severe disease.”

DOH officials assure the public that health personnel and facilities are well-prepared to respond to a possible surge brought about by a relaxation of border controls and the circulation in public of more people.

Yet, emphasis must be placed on improving citizens’ and visitors’ health literacy and pro-activeness. To complement the authorities’ testing and contact tracing, health information, education, and communication (IEC) campaigns should continue to be prioritized.

Preventing community transmission rests on the public’s performance of basic health protocols.

The proper wearing of masks and isolation at home when one exhibits symptoms of the infection are increasingly left to individual self-regulation.

Are the authorities sustaining the drive to educate and persuade the public to seek double-protection against Covid-19 through vaccinations and booster shots?

The Mandaue City Government and its partner Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. are commended for initiating the recent Bakuna Awards, which granted cash incentives to top-performing barangays that achieved the targeted vaccination rate of 70 percent, reported SunStar Cebu on May 21.

A raffle draw also awarded cash prizes to five randomly-selected individuals who received their first and second Covid-19 shots at a Mandaue vaccination site.

According to the May 17 report of Ivan Rey R. Tan in SunStar Cebu, only 239 individuals availed of the second booster shot since the roll-out of the second booster in Cebu City began in April 2022.

Included in the immunocompromised group are “HIV patients, active cancer or malignancy, transplant recipients, those undergoing steroid treatment, patients with poor prognosis or bedridden patients, and other conditions of immunodeficiency as certified by a physician,” reported Tan.

Local government units must coordinate with hospitals to reach immunocompromised individuals who need to be persuaded to seek their first or second booster shots.

Administering the Covid-19 vaccinations and booster shots at hospitals spares immunocompromised individuals from going to vaccination centers in public sites.

IEC campaigns are needed to remind the public to be vigilant about dengue, with local cases on the rise.

Public and civic stakeholders are also called to inform citizens about the monkeypox, a viral disease showing up in 12 countries where this is not naturally occurring.

Boosting the public’s health literacy is essential for preventing illnesses and community transmission of infections.