MANILA— Philippine employers should not require COVID-19 vaccination for individuals applying for work in their firms, the health department said Saturday, even as business leaders aimed to fast track the reopening of the pandemic-battered economy.
In a public briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said while inoculation against the respiratory disease is important, it remains "voluntary."
"Hindi rin natin puwedeng gawing... requirement ito para sa pagtatrabaho because vaccination is voluntary, although kailangan ding maintindihan ng ating kababayan importante kahit voluntary ito," explained Vergeire.
(We cannot make this a requirement for work because vaccination is voluntary. Our countrymen should also remember that while this is voluntary, it is important to be vaccinated.)
Video courtesy of PTV
Her statement came following the reported requirement of US-based Delta Air Lines for their new hires to be vaccinated against the disease, becoming among the first major firms to implement such policy.
But Vergeire said the country's officials and health experts already had "long discussions" on the matter but that they deemed the move "inequitable."
"Kahit voluntary ito, kailangan sana magpabakuna kayo dahil ito po ang makakapagprotekta sa inyo. But we cannot make it as a requirement for work," she pointed out.
(While this is voluntary, it is important that we get vaccinated because this will protect you from COVID-19)
This also came amid proposals of business leaders for the government to implement a "vaccine pass" to those who have received 2 doses of COVID-19 jabs, which the agency had also rejected.
Such passes are considered special permits to allow fully vaccinated people to stay longer in restaurants and other establishments despite health protocols and quarantine restrictions.
The health official reiterated that there is not enough evidence that those who have received their 2 vaccine doses can no longer be infected with COVID-19.
"Lagi tayong nagbabalanse between the health and the economy pero sa ngayon po ang siyensya at ebidensya ay hindi pa po sapat para makapagbigay tayo ng ganitong rekomendasyon galing sa Kagawaran ng Kalusugan," she said.
(We always balance health and the economy but at this time, science and evidence is insufficient for us to give this recommendation.)
"Pinanghahawakan natin ang kumpletong ebidensya na ang isang bakunadong individual can still be infected and can still infect others."
(We are holding onto the evidence that a vaccinated individual can still be infected and can still infect others)
The government downgraded quarantine classifications in most parts of the Philippines starting this weekend.
Among those areas with eased lockdown levels include Metro Manila and surrounding provinces where a surge in infections was recorded between March and April.
As of May 12, more than 2.057 million Filipinos already received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose since the government started rolling out its inoculation program in March.
Nearly 566,000, meanwhile, have gotten their 2 doses against the respiratory disease.