The Department of Health (DOH) is allocating more vaccines to towns affected by Taal Volcano’s unrest as part of efforts to offer additional protection for residents forced to evacuate their homes.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing on Monday, July 5, that the government’s vaccine cluster and other concerned officials decided on the measure as residents had no choice but to gather in evacuation centers.
“The allocation of vaccines will be increased and we are hoping that by vaccinating individuals and monitoring them through antigen test kits and symptomatic monitoring, we will be able to prevent further infections in the evacuation sites,” Vergeire said.
In a Facebook post, the Batangas public information office said five Metro Manila local governments also donated 6,500 vaccines for residents affected by Taal volcano’s unrest:
On Monday morning, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III vaccinated Agoncillo Mayor Daniel Reyes in a separate ceremony. DOH Calabarzon said vaccination activities in Agoncillo on Monday would focus on 1,200 Taal evacuees who have been in the evacuation centers since July 1.
Calabarzon health disaster risk reduction and management director Dr. Voltaire Guadalupe said that as of July 4, 95 evacuation centers were being used in Laguna and Batangas. The sites were housing 3,430 individuals, or 925 families.
While additional vaccines were sent to Batangas, Vergeire said local officials must also ensure other health measures are carried out to keep people safe in evacuation centers.
These include observing social distancing, the use of schools with one classroom to a family or one tent to a family, as well as the use of evacuation sites with good ventilation. Vergeire said enclosed evacuation center with limited ventilation should be avoided, if possible.
Local officials may also use antigen tests as baseline monitoring of COVID-19 cases within evacuation sites. Guadalupe said the DOH and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council have deployed “more than enough” antigen tests for evacuees in towns affected by the ongoing unrest of Taal Volcano.
Aside from these, Vergeire said individuals must wear face masks at all times. Handwashing stations can also be set up, while minimum public health standards should be observed always.
In a separate statement Monday afternoon, DOH Calabarzon said five mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) teams were deployed to provide support to the 12 affected municipalities.
Teams will visit evacuation centers in the towns of Alitagtag, Balayan, Balete, Laurel, Agoncillo, San Nicolas, Talisay, San Jose, and Tanauan. They are expected to provide psychological first aid to affected evacuees, including senior citizens and persons with disabilities.
Each MHPSS team is composed of doctors, psychologists, health promotion officers, and nurses trained in providing psychological first aid, as well as mental health and psychosocial support, the DOH said.
“Disasters such as this can affect an individual’s emotional instability including stress reactions, anxiety, and trauma. We have to assist these individuals and give them support and guidance in order for them to cope and be able to reorganize their lives,” DOH Calabarzon Officer-in-Charge Paula Sydiongco said.
Taal Volcano was placed under Alert Level 3 following a phreatomagmatic eruption last Thursday, July 1. This alert level means there is magmatic unrest.