Vaccine hesitancy may further delay safe reopening of schools: Gatchalian

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 12 2021 01:44 PM

ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian warned Tuesday of a prolonged delay on the resumption of in-person classes in the country if government fails to boost public trust on vaccines against COVID-19.

In a statement, Gatchalian argued that the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — would not be suppressed if people refuse to get vaccinated, leading to a further delay in the safe reopening of schools.

"Magiging malaki ang problema natin kung walang magpapabakuna laban sa COVID. Hindi tayo makakabalik sa normal na pamumuhay," said Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate basic education committee.

(We will have a big problem if no one would get vaccinated against COVID-19. We won't be able to go back to our normal ways of living.)

The senator cited a recent Pulse Asia survey, which showed that nearly half or 47 percent of Filipinos would opt to skip getting inoculated against the respiratory illness.

A study by the OCTA Research Group, meanwhile, found that only 1 in 4 Metro Manila residents are willing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Department of Health earlier said it would mount an information drive on the COVID-19 vaccine to encourage Filipinos to be vaccinated against the deadly disease and to quell the public’s fear regarding its safety. 

Gatchalian also reiterated his call to include teachers in the priority groups of the government's COVID-19 vaccination program.

The government was supposed to hold a dry run of limited in-person classes in areas with low-risk of COVID-19 transmission this month, but President Rodrigo Duterte cancelled it, citing concerns over a new COVID-19 variant.

Proponents of the resumption of in-person classes said the instructional method was still the most ideal way of teaching and learning.

Schools are currently implementing distance learning but some students, parents and teachers have faced challenges with the new modes of instruction, such as unreliable internet connectivity.