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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Even after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the end of the COVID-19 global health emergency, health officials in Cagayan de Oro continued with their vaccination campaign, calling on the city’s elderly and children to get inoculated so they could meet their targets.
Dr. Rachel Dilla, the chief of the City Health Office (CHO), told a situation briefing on Monday, May 8, that she was concerned about the low number of senior citizens who have been vaccinated compared to the target set.
“We are significantly behind our targets. I appeal to our senior citizens to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” Dilla said.
As of May 8, only 346 out of the targeted 5,000 senior citizens have received their COVID-19 vaccine jabs.
Although the WHO declared on May 5 that the COVID-19 situation was no longer a “public health emergency of international concern,” the deadly virus remains a significant threat.
“Let’s be clear: the virus is still here. Those who have not received their vaccine doses are still at risk of severe COVID-19 infections,” Dilla said.
Dr. Teodulfo Joselito Retuya Jr., the CHO’s chief epidemiologist, said that as of Monday, there have been 35 new COVID-19 cases in the city. Among them, 25 were male and 10 were female.
Of the new cases, 28 were aged between 18 and 59 years old, six were 60 years and older, and one was a one-year-old. Retuya said 21 of them were asymptomatic, 10 had mild infections, and four had moderate infections.
But 60-year-old Glennard Vergel, a resident of Barangay Camaman-an, said he was more worried now about suffering a heat stroke if he goes out to get jabbed at the local health center.
“I wanted to get my second dose, but I am already frail and I fear I wouldn’t be able to endure the current heat in the city,” Vergel said.
On Monday, the heat index in Cagayan de Oro reached 40 degrees Celsius although the surface temperature only peaked at 32 degrees.
Dr. Ina Grace Chiu, the national immunization program coordinator at the local health office, called on parents to accompany their children, aged five to 11 years old, to vaccination centers for their second doses.
Chiu informed reporters that 9,841 children have not returned for their second jabs out of the total number targeted.
As of May 8, Chiu said booster doses have been administered to 43,773 children, representing only 45% of the target.
“We have noticed a decrease in the number of people coming for their booster shots,” Chiu said.
Rosita Polestico, who lives in one of the upland barangays of the city, and who has two children, said she found it challenging to travel back to the barangay health center due to the distance from their house.
“I can’t bear the recent heat, and if I can’t handle it, how can my children?” Polestico lamented.
Cecilia Adlawon, a resident of Barangay Camaman-an, said they prioritize their daily needs over spending money on transportation. Her house is at least five kilometers from the barangay health center and would require them fares of P100 each way. – Rappler.com
Cong Corrales is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.