Minors won’t get jabs in Soccsksargen yet

Rommel Rebollido
Minors won’t get jabs in Soccsksargen yet
Health officials say at least 50% of the qualified elderly population in Soccsksargen should be vaccinated against COVID-19 before they can give jabs to those aged 12 to 17

Health officials in Soccsksargen on Thursday, October 21, said minors would have to wait a little longer for their COVID-19 vaccination until the health department could inoculate at least half of the region’s elderly population.

The vaccination rollout in the region has been slowed down by the low turnout of senior citizens receiving jabs, something blamed mainly on vaccination hesitancy.

“We have to vaccinate at least 50% of the qualified elderly population against COVID-19 before we can start the vaccine rollout for the pediatric group or those aged 12 to 17 years,” said Dr. Edvir Jane Montañer, immunization manager of the Department of Health (DOH) in Soccsksargen.

“We don’t have any problem with the vaccine supply right now. It’s on how to give them to our residents,” she added.

As of Wednesday, October 20, the number of elderly people getting jabbed in the region was still about 9.3% below the DOH target.

Of Soccsksargen’s 314,465 senior citizens, only 128,153 or 40.7% have been fully vaccinated so far.

The National Vaccine Operations Center (NVOC) requires that the majority of the elderly population must be vaccinated first before the health workers could proceed with the inoculation of the younger population.

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Mobile vaccination facility

Montañer said the DOH has urged local governments in Soccsksargen to help ramp up the campaign to convince more senior citizens to receive jabs.

As of Tuesday, October 19, a total of 1,287,506 residents in Soccsksargen, including Cotabato City, have been vaccinated, including those who only received their first jabs.

DOH has aimed to inoculate 3,523,867 or 70% of the population in the region by year-end.

In General Santos City, local officials fielded a mobile vaccination facility in the hope of administering vaccine shots to elderly people, including essential workers, who have remained reluctant to get inoculated.

Dr. Rochelle Oco, City Health Office chief, told reporters that city hall has aimed to administer vaccine doses to at least 500 residents through its “Bakuna Bus” that brings the vaccines to the villages. 

On Wednesday, the retro-fitted Bakuna Bus was deployed to the City Central Public Market where health workers were able to inoculate several market vendors, market-goers, public utility drivers, and workers. 

The bus makes rounds every Wednesday and Saturday.

Oco said, the Bakuna Bus also makes stops at the public terminals, and in communities with a high number of unvaccinated residents.

With the program, he said people no longer have a justifiable reason not to get inoculated.

The DOH said an average of 2,054 people were receiving their jabs in the city daily, way below the 4,446-target so General Santos could achieve herd immunity status by the end of the year.

As of Monday, October 18, some 110,449 General Santos residents were fully vaccinated, and 145,462 others were waiting for their second jabs.

The figures are still a far cry from city hall’s target of 409,732 inoculated residents, which is 70% of its adult population of around 585,000. 

Based on the May 2020 census, this city has a population of 697,315. –

Rommel Rebollido is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship