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Senators hit ‘unacceptable’ vaccination coverage for teachers

/ 03:52 PM October 06, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Senators on Wednesday criticized the “unacceptable” COVID-19 vaccination coverage for teachers and other personnel of the Department of Education (DepEd), which stands at only 57 percent.

During the hearing of the Senate basic education committee, DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan initially said that only over 30 percent of teaching and non-teaching staff of the department have so far been vaccinated against COVID-19—a small figure that alarmed senators. However, he later said updated figures show that 57 percent of them have been inoculated.

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“The data that was sent to me now is we are at 57 percent among our teaching population, translating to about 580,000 of our 970,000 teaching and non-teaching personnel around the country. We also have an existing arrangement for the institutional approach for vaccination but with the DepEd, the rollout is still through the local government units,” he said.

“We are at 57 percent and we certainly would be working institutionally, and we are, with the NTF (National Task Force against COVID-19) for the complete vaccination of our teachers,” he added.

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However, the higher number of vaccinated personnel still did not sit well with the senators.

“Ang teachers natin are frontliners. I am shocked. Fifty-seven percent for me is still not acceptable. Parang for me kalevel nila ‘yung health workers. Dapat ganoon ang level ng vaccination rate natin for our teachers,” said Senator Nancy Binay.

(Our teachers are frontliners. I am shocked. Fifty-seven percent for me is still not acceptable. For me, health workers should be treated at the same level as health workers. That should be the level of our vaccination rate for our teachers.)

Binay also noted that other government agencies have reached 90 percent vaccination coverage for their personnel.

DepEd bared the figures as it announced that the pilot run of limited face-to-face classes for kindergarten, grades 1 to 3, and other in-person workshops for senior high schools will start on November 15.

Senator Pia Cayetano said that sufficient vaccination coverage for teachers should have been prepared even before President Rodrigo Duterte approved the conduct of the pilot test in September.

“Even though we know that the President has not yet allowed it, we expected that all the planning was happening… There does not seem to be any urgency in ensuring that there was a plan in place to get all the teachers vaccinated,” she pointed out.

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However, Malaluan stressed that only fully vaccinated school personnel will be allowed to host the in-person classes during the pilot run.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, for his part, said it is not the fault of unvaccinated teachers if they cannot participate in the initial test for face-to-face classes due to limited access to vaccines.

“I do support the concept of just limiting it to just fully vaccinated teachers and non-teaching personnel who will be deployed to the schools. However, the issue of access is what is uncertain right now. Even though the teacher wants to be in the school, if the teacher cannot get access to vaccines, then it is not the fault of the teacher,” said Gatchalian.

“The point here is giving special priority to our teachers because the push here is to go back to face-to-face classes. This is also one way of giving confidence to parents… That’s one of the ways of building confidence, which we are quite not satisfied with the way it is going,” he added.

Following the remarks of the lawmakers, Interior Undersecretary Ricojudge Echiverri noted that the vaccination coverage for teachers may be higher in the records of local government units. Teachers are included in the A4 priority group for vaccination, which covers essential workers.

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