Majority of students, 37K teachers still unvaccinated
The majority of the 27 million elementary and high school students in the country, many of whom will return to in-person classes as a new school year starts on Monday, have not received a single vaccine dose as protection against COVID-19.
Meanwhile, some 37,000 unvaccinated grade school teachers, part of an estimated 883,000 elementary instructors nationwide, will also join the resumption of classes, Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III of the Department of Education (DepEd) told the Senate on Friday.
At a press briefing also on Friday, DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa said only 5.3 million, or about 20 percent of the total enrollees this school year, have been fully vaccinated.
But the number of partially inoculated students, or those who were administered one primary vaccine dose, was higher at 5.7 million, Poa said.
“We would have wanted the numbers to be higher. Of course we would all like a 100-percent vaccinated rate. But the truth of the matter is, the vaccination program of the national government is not mandatory,” Poa said.
He added that the number of vaccinees may yet increase after an update on those figures.
Poa emphasized that schools “will not discriminate” against students or teachers who have not yet been inoculated.
“We will just have to strictly observe minimum health and safety standards to protect not only our learners, but also our teaching and nonteaching staff,” he said.
Poa noted further that a total of 921,925 teaching and non-teaching personnel, accounting for 92.11 percent of that workforce estimated at 1,000,945, have been fully vaccinated.
This leaves 79,020 teachers and other school personnel who have yet to be given a COVID-19 vaccine.
According to Densing, about 37,000 grade school teachers have yet to be inoculated. He claimed further that 17,000 of those teachers have “refused” to be given a COVID-19 vaccine.
Densing cited those numbers from the Department of Health (DOH) when he addressed a hearing on Friday by the Senate basic education committee.
“We recognize that getting vaccinated should not be required. Those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated would really interact with each other,” he said.
“What’s important is that inside the classrooms, the wearing of face masks and the [implementation of] minimum public health standards will be required,” he added.
Densing further pointed out, again citing the DOH, that only 10 percent of about 14 million Filipinos age 5 to 11 have been fully inoculated against COVID-19.
But on the other hand, 80 percent of around 11.4 million Filipinos aged 12 to 17 are already fully vaccinated, he said.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, committee chair, said: “I think that’s a good number and we’re not seeing any problem with that. The problem is with the 5 to 11 [age group]. That’s where the challenge comes in.”
Sen. Nancy Binay, who joined the hearing via Webex after she tested positive for COVID-19, said DepEd should have clear-cut policies regarding the suspension of in-person classes should a student or teacher contract the coronavirus.
Densing said there are guidelines on the holding of physical classes and other school activities in Department Order No. 34 issued by Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte—among them, health protocols, such as physical distancing and wearing of face masks.
—with a report from Marlon Ramos
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