The head of the government’s vaccine expert panel has admonished fully vaccinated senior citizens against unnecessary travel and gathering in already crowded areas as the national immunization drive against COVID-19 continues.
At the Laging Handa public briefing last Saturday, Dr. Niña Gloriani, head of the Department of Science and Technology’s vaccine development expert panel, said seniors should wait up to two weeks after getting their second dose so they could be considered fully protected.
“The caveat is you can’t go anywhere you wish. Like in the United States, if all of you have been vaccinated—which means you got your two dose[s]—and at least two weeks after the second dose, then you can already get together. But you can’t go to crowded areas, and if you need to go there, there’s still minimum public health precautions to comply with,” Gloriani said.
Gloriani said being allowed to leave their homes would be beneficial to the elderly who have been ordered to stay inside—except to buy food and medicines and do brief exercises—during much of the country’s quarantine now stretching 15 months.
“That will be good [for them] because, you know, being confined at home has been exhausting. When you’ve been seeing the same things [inside the house], it’s nice if [the door is] opened [for you to go out], especially for seniors. They need this, not just for their physical [but also] mental, emotional [and social] health—everybody needs it,” Gloriani said.
Don’t infringe on their rights
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has issued a resolution allowing fully vaccinated senior citizens in areas under general community quarantine and modified general community quarantine starting June 16.
With the easing of quarantine measures earlier deemed discriminatory against senior citizens, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Sunday reminded local officials to ensure that their regulations do not infringe on the rights of the elderly.
Human Rights Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit reminded local officials of the many instances that senior citizens were unjustly punished for being outside as they sought essential services.
Senior citizens in need of such services should be allowed to leave their homes whether or not they have been vaccinated, she said.
The CHR cited several reports of senior citizens being turned away from essential services or, worse, being reprimanded.
“We urge local chief executives to ensure that this does not happen again and to fully respect the rights of older persons to be treated with dignity amid these challenging times,” Dumpit said.
She pointed out that only 5 percent of the elderly have been vaccinated, “because of unavailability [of vaccines] in their respective local governments and inaccessibility of vaccination sites.”
“It is critically important for the government to ensure that the limited supply of vaccines is distributed equitably in all provinces of the country so that all priority groups, including senior citizens, are vaccinated as soon as possible,” Dumpit said.
In a radio interview on Sunday, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Benhur Abalos said “I am hoping that we can prioritize our senior citizens and persons with comorbidities so that they can finally be safe… These are the two most important sectors aside from doctors and nurses.”