MANILA - Health Secretary Francisco Duque said Friday he supports a proposal to require proof of booster vaccination against COVID-19 for entry into establishments and public transportation.
Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion has recommended mobility restrictions for individuals who will fail to get their booster jabs within 30 to 60 days after they become eligible for the additional vaccine dose.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases will still have to deliberate on the matter next week, Duque said.
“I personally support this because of proven waning immunity over time against COVID after vaccination with the primary series. And booster has been proven to bring back adequate protection to those who received it,” he said.
An enabling law is needed for mandatory vaccination, Health spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire reiterated.
"Secretary Duque specifically stated that just to respond na ginagawa lahat ng stratehiya ng national government para maabot lahat ng 'di naaabot, makapagpataas ng antas ng pagbabakuna," she told reporters.
(Secretary Duque specifically stated that just to respond that the national government is doing everything so all can be reached by vaccines and we can ramp up inoculation.)
"Pero kung kinakailangan na magkaroon ng mandatory vaccination or booster, kailangan po natin ng enabling law para po tayo ay makapagpatupad nito at iyan po ay hinihingi sa legislators kaya niya po iyan nabanggit."
(An enabling law is needed for mandatory vaccination or booster, which comes from legislators and that's why Duque mentioned it.)
For labor group Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, the proposed mobility restrictions on un-boosted individuals have the same effect as “mandatory” vaccination, which it said is illegal.
“The TUCP warns the government in forcing mandatory vaccination of booster shots. Mandatory vaccination is illegal under the law. And based on our recent experience, forcing workers to vaccinate and to have them boostered makes government not credible, not believable,” TUCP Spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said.
Government data show that of the target 90 million individuals, 66.5 million have been fully vaccinated against COVID. But only 12.38 million received a booster or additional dose, less than a third of the over 46 million eligible adults.
Acting World Health Organization Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rajendra Yadav urged the national and local governments to take urgent actions to reach unvaccinated and un-boosted senior citizens and indigents, as he warned that a surge in COVID cases is “quite likely” in the next 2 months due to “unsafe gatherings” and “social mixing”.
Yadav noted the current window of opportunity might be closing before the next potential wave strikes the country, threatening hard-earned gains from 2 years of pandemic response.
He recommended house-to-house inoculation for unvaccinated individuals who belong to priority groups, and called on Filipinos to wear a mask, and get booster jabs once eligible.
“LGUs need to implement a more targeted approach of closer-to-home and mobile vaccinations to reach these vulnerable individuals. We cannot continue waiting for them to come to the health facilities. Instead, we need to reach these unreached populations by deploying outreach vaccinators immediately. In addition, we need to prioritize geographical areas with the largest number of unvaccinated senior citizens,” Yadav said.
“WHO strongly recommends decentralized facility-based and community-based vaccination campaigns while reducing over-reliance on mega-sites for closing the last mile. Moreover, WHO suggests integrating COVID-19 vaccination with routine vaccination services whenever feasible,” he added.