Gov't urged to monitor vaccination rates outside Metro Manila as restrictions ease

Aleta Nieva-Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 05 2021 03:08 PM

Parents and children relax at a public park, as the country's capital region loosens coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, November 2, 2021. Picture taken November 2, 2021. Lisa Marie David, Reuters
Parents and children relax at a public park, as the country's capital region loosens coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, November 2, 2021. Picture taken November 2, 2021. Lisa Marie David, Reuters

MANILA - The Philippines must continue to monitor vaccination rates outside Metro Manila even as government coronavirus restrictions ease in the region.

Tony Leachon, a former adviser to the government’s COVID-19 response, said vaccine hesitancy remains high particularly in parts of the Visayas and Mindanao despite the high vaccination rate in Metro Manila. 

Citing government data, Leachon said the capital region’s vaccination rate is at 88 percent, followed by the Cordillera Administrative Region at 39 percent, while the rest are below 30 percent.

With ease in restrictions, Leachon said mobility will become a problem as new infections in Metro Manila may come from unvaccinated people from neighboring regions with low vaccination rate.

“Sana taasan muna nila vaccination rate doon. Ang taas ng cases natin sa Northern Luzon, kasi b'yahe kaagad from NCR, puntahan ng turista 'yang area na 'yan. 'Yang Luzon may be a dangerous area later on kung hindi natin siya titingnan on the mobility aspect," he said in a TeleRadyo interview.

(I hope they increase first the vaccination rate there. Cases are high in Northern Luzon as people travel from NCR to these tourist areas. Luzon may be a dangerous area later on if we don't consider the mobility aspect.)

Malacanang on Thursday announced the downgrading of the alert level system in Metro Manila from 3 to 2 from Nov. 5 to 21 as COVID-19 cases declines.

Leachon said he expected the coronavirus restrictions to ease but by the middle of this month. He said there is a need to prepare ahead to ensure that it will be implemented properly.

“Syempre magugulat ang mga tao. Preparation is key to success and communication. In-expect ko na talagang mag-aalert level 2 tayo. Ang concern ko lang is the communication process and the behaviour of our people. Meron Dolomite experience na ayaw nating maulit. Sana mapaigting natin yung communication bago natin largahan,” he said.

(People are surprised. I expected this Alert Level 2. My only concern is the communication process and the behavior of people. We don't want a repeat of the Dolomite experience. I hope that before we implement something, we strengthen the communication process first.)

He stressed that government should reconsider maintaining the bubble it earlier enforced in Metro Manila to protect it from the more transmissible COVID variant.
 
“Kailangan natin bago tayo naglalarga ay higpitan natin ang health protocols. Dapat yung NCR bubble at paghihigpit sa borders tingnan natin pa rin yan,” he said.

(We need to strengthen our health protocols first. We should still look at the NCR bubble and strict border control.)

Philippine borders must also be monitored in anticipation of tourist arrivals from countries where the sub-variant of COVID-19 Delta strain is present," he said. 

“Dapat bantayan din natin borders natin kasi mag-uuwian ang mga turista, magki-Christmas season,” he said.

(We need to secure our borders because tourists are expected to come home this Christmas season.)

Last month, the health department said that it has yet to detect the local presence of the Delta subvariant. Experts have yet to identify the health impacts of the AY 4.2. variant which has already turned up in some European countries, especially the United Kingdom. 

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GRANULARITY IN GOV'T DATA

Meanwhile, Leachon said he wants granularity in government data to also show the vaccination and positivity rate per region.

“We cannot manage what we don’t measure. Kung mababa na positivity rate what we need right now is monitoring of the vaccination rate. I think that will help the country,” he said.

The Philippines on Thursday announced 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, falling for the second straight day below the 2,000-mark, data from the health department showed. 

Leachon said he supports making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory if there are enough supplies of vaccines.

“Kaya nakakapag-mandate ang ibang countries because they are prepared. They have the supplies, they have the manpower and the testing capacity. Eventually, we need to do that so that yung mga nandoon sa hesitant group pumunta na sila sa acceptability,” he said.