Accelerate vaccination of minors, teachers amid Omicron threat—Gatchalian

Published December 2, 2021, 10:40 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday urged the government to ramp up its COVID-19 vaccination program for minors and teachers in light of the global concern on the Omicron variant.

Gatchalian pointed out the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Omicron a variant of concern on Nov. 26, and while preliminary studies suggest that it poses an increased risk to reinfection, it remains unclear whether the variant is more transmissible and causes more diseases compared to other variants, including Delta.

The senator also emphasized that vaccinating teachers and eligible learners will boost their protection and confidence as the Department of Education (DepEd) and Department of Health (DOH) plan to increase the number of schools participating in the pilot implementation of limited in-person classes.

“Dahil sa banta ng Omicron variant ng COVID-19, dapat nating paigtingin ang pagbabakuna sa mga guro at mga kabataan, lalo na’t ngayon pa lang sila unti-unting nakakabalik sa kanilang mga paaralan (Because of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, we need to intensify the vaccination of our teachers and young people, especially now that they are gradually returning to their schools),” Gatchalian said in a statement.

“Kung mababakunahan natin ang lahat ng mga guro at mga mag-aaral ay mas matitiyak natin ang kanilang kaligtasan at mapapanatili natin ang kanilang kumpiyansa (If we are able to inoculate all our teachers and students, we can ensure their safety and maintain their confidence),” he said.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, pointed out public health experts have reiterated that vaccination and the implementation of minimum health standards are key to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

DepEd recently announced it is considering the inclusion of 177 more schools in the pilot implementation of in-person classes. At least 28 schools in Metro Manila are scheduled to conduct dry runs as part of the pilot face-to-face classes on Dec. 6.

Metro Manila considered low-risk for COVID-19 and will remain under Alert Level 2 until Dec. 15.

Authorities are eyeing the vaccination of minors aged 5-11 by January 2022, provided that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will grant emergency use approvals for children’s use by December.

Gatchalian has also been pushing for regular COVID-19 tests for teachers as he recalled how two schools in Zambales deferred their participation in limited face-to-face classes after some teachers tested positive for COVID-19.