LGUs ordered to convince unvaxxed constituents to get Covid vaccine amid Omicron BA.4 subvariant threat

Published May 22, 2022, 6:54 PM

by Chito Chavez

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) directed all local government units (LGUs) to scour their areas and encourage the unvaccinated and those eligible to get Covid-19 booster shots to be inoculated against the virus.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año issued the directive as the Omicron BA.4 subvariant has now entered the country putting the public’s health at great risk.

He noted that the Omicron BA.4 subvariant poses a threat to public health as it can evade immune protection from vaccination and prior infection.

With this looming danger, Año said that the LGUs must maximize its resources in urging the unvaxxed and booster-eligible population to get vaccinated “as a precautionary measure versus a more transmissible Omicron variant and possible community transmission.”

“We direct all LGUs to be proactive in its vaccination efforts and seek these people who are eligible for inoculation. The Department of Health’s (DOH) detection of BA.4 signals the need for a more aggressive action to ensure that the people are vaccinated and protected against this highly contagious variant of COVID-19,” Año said.

According to the DOH, it detected the subvariant from a Filipino citizen who flew from the Middle East on May 4, 2022.

The patient who was asymptomatic was confirmed positive with the more transmissible variant from a specimen collected on May 8, 2022.

Año said that despite the transition of power to the newly-elected officials, the LGUs must be ready to mobilize all its resources to identify citizens who are eligible for vaccination and booster shots in the face of the Omicron subvariant.

The DILG chief added that the BA.4’s ability for faster transmission must be countered by improved vaccination turnout especially for people who are immunocompromised and vulnerable for possible transmission.

He also underscored that even the vaccinated must be urged to get booster shots as the said variant can evade Covid-19 vaccination especially if its efficacy waned over time.

“Kailangan itong tiyagain (Covid-19 vaccination efforts) ng mga pamahalaang lokal (The local government must persevere). Millions of Filipinos have been vaccinated months ago and that can work against our goal of protecting our people sapagkat itong BA.4 ay nakakalusot sa bakuna lalo na kung matagal nang naturukan,” Año said.

“Kung kinakailangang katukin ang bawat bahay para malaman kung sino ang dapat bakunahan, iyan po ang gawin natin (If there is a need to knock on the door of every house to inquire those who need to be vaccinated then that should be done),’’ he added.

The DOH said in its statement that “while the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has not observed any severity in BA.4, faster transmission will lead to a spike in cases that could overwhelm our hospitals and clinics.”

Año stressed that the LGUs must tap their established pandemic health units such as the Local Covid-19 Task Forces (LCTFs) and the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs) to aid the efforts of vaccinating more individuals “avoiding spike of cases which can be detrimental to our health system.”

The DILG directed LGUs to create LCTFs during the onset of the pandemic in 2020 to enable them to monitor and analyze COVID-19 data and to better address the issues and concerns of their constituents during the coronavirus health crisis.

Likewise the LGUs were directed to activate their BHERTs in 2020 to conduct visits in the homes of individuals possibly inflicted with Covid-19; initiate contact-tracing; and, report, on a daily basis, the condition of prospective and confirmed Covid-19 cases among others.

“The LGUs have the existing tools to help them in identifying their constituents who must be vaccinated. We hope na gamitin nila ito to their advantage para mas marami pa ang mabakunahan,” Año said.

Get vaccinated, follow health protocols

DILG Undersecretary Jonathan E. Malaya urged the public to commit themselves in the vaccination program whether it is their first time or they are eligible for booster shots.

He also reminded the public to continue adhering to minimum public health standards (MPHS) “as these have greatly contributed to the recent decrease of Covid-19 cases in the country.”

The DILG spokesperson also urged the barangay volunteers to work with the LGUs in identifying citizens eligible for vaccination imploring them to enliven the ‘bayanihan spirit’ to counter the spread of Omicron BA.4 variant.

According to the ECDC the presence of Omicron BA.4 together with BA.5 could cause a significant overall increase in COVID-19 cases in the European Union in the coming weeks and months. (Chito A. Chavez)