It can’t get any better: Jab awaits unvaxxed voter
LAOAG CITY, Ilocos Norte, Philippines — “Pop-up” vaccination tents would be set up near voting centers in the Ilocos Region on Election Day to encourage those who have yet to get jabbed or boosted against COVID-19 to do so.
The regional office of the Department of Health (DOH) said that after choosing their candidates, voters in the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, and Pangasinan who have yet to get their COVID-19 primary doses or booster shots could go to the vaccination sites near their precincts.
An official of the DOH regional office clarified, however, that getting inoculated was not a must for those casting their votes on May 9.
“This is not being forced upon anyone and it is not a requirement for voters. We will be there to administer booster shots to those who haven’t gotten their vaccines yet,” DOH Ilocos Director Paula Paz Syndiongo said.
According to her, they are “taking every opportunity to provide immunization services to those who are willing and ready to be vaccinated to further strengthen our vaccination status against COVID-19.”
Hot spots not included
But there would be no vaccination tents in areas under the election watch list of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) or in places considered as political hot spots, Syndiongo said.
Among the vaccines to be offered in the region are Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Janssen, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
The latest data from the local DOH office showed that at least 83 percent of the target population of 4.3 million in the Ilocos region were now fully vaccinated against the disease.
Today marks the first time that the Philippines is holding elections in the middle of a pandemic.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier announced that the DOH would set up pop-up inoculation sites outside the 30-meter radius from all polling stations nationwide. Eligible to be vaccinated are individuals 18 years old and above who are up for boosters and those who have yet to complete their primary doses.
“After voting, you may proceed right away [to the vaccination sites] if you still don’t have booster shots or if you need to complete your primary vaccine series. This is given by the government for free so that everyone will have continued protection,” Vergeire said at the Laging Handa briefing.
Voters need to present only a valid ID card to get their primary doses or vaccination cards for their booster shots.
The Comelec had requested the DOH to station the makeshift vaccination hubs at least 30 meters away from voting centers to avoid confusing voters about whether or not COVID-19 vaccines were required of them.
“The commission has been in talks with the agency. We know that their plans are well-intentioned but … it might cause confusion in our polling centers, so we asked them if they could distance [the vaccination sites from the polling centers],” acting Comelec spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco told reporters on Sunday.
Putting up jabbing sites outside, and not within the voting areas, would “clear the polling centers exclusively for voting,” he said.
As of May 6, a total of 147.7 million doses had already been administered nationwide, of which only 13.4 million were for boosters, based on the government’s national COVID-19 dashboard.
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