Unvaccinated make up 91% of new Davao COVID-19 cases – Sara Duterte

Davao Mayor Sara Duterte on Monday, September 13, sounded alarm bells as she noted that 91% of the people who tested positive for COVID-19 in Davao City last week were unvaccinated.

Duterte said 3,011 of the 3,304 people documented to have caught the virus in Davao from September 5 to September 11 were unvaccinated and so were 55 of the 59 of those who died during the six-day period.

She also frowned on what she called faith-based opposition to COVID-19 vaccination, saying those who have been asserting such a position were endangering lives.

"Kamo po nga dili gatu-o og bakuna...kamo po nga dili gatu-o og COVID...most likely, kamo pud ang magdala sa COVID sa inyong mga balay," she told the city hall-run Davao City Disaster Radio.

(You, who don't believe in vaccination...you, who don't believe in COVID…most likely, you will bring COVID into your homes.)

She cited a 61-year-old pastor who was struggling for life due to COVID-19 in a Davao hospital. "She's an anti-vaxxer, and she's a severe case now," Duterte said.

It was not the first time that a faith-based advocate against vaccination suffered the same fate in Davao. Several of them died and were among the over 2,000 cremated in the city since the start of the pandemic, Duterte said.

The pastor is among the 3,304 people who tested positive for COVID-19 in Davao from September 5 to September 11.

"Dako nga deperensya (The difference is clear)," said Duterte. "This should guide us that we should get vaccinated. Vaccination will prevent our hospitals from getting overwhelmed."

Apocalypse?

Davao is where wild tales about a supposedly impending zombie apocalypse due to the ongoing government COVID-19 vaccination rollout originated.

It sprang from the end-of-days teaching of a small group of evangelicals led by preacher Rod Cubos, who warned that vaccination was a death sentence, that it would turn people into zombies, and that inoculation meant endangering souls as well.

There are other similar groups like Cubos' that have been teaching that the pandemic is the fulfillment of a biblical prophecy and that it is a precursor to the coming of the antichrist and the dreaded "mark of the beast."

Duterte said, "We cannot see science in the Bible. The Bible only talks about our relationship with God. Our enemy, COVID-19, is a virus that we cannot find in the Bible. So, if we talk about COVID-19, and our faith, let's use science as our basis and not the Bible."

Last week, Duterte gave all city hall workers until December 31 to get inoculated, warning that “job-order” and other contractual workers, and consultants face the prospect of seeing their contracts not renewed by January 2022 unless they showed proof of full vaccination. She said regular workers would also risk being charged with insubordination.

City hall, she said, has also prepared mass graves in case of a surge in COVID-19-related deaths in Davao. Each grave can contain as many as six bodies.

Cagayan de Oro's unvaccinated

Vaccination hesitancy has become a stumbling block elsewhere. 

At the state-run Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) in Cagayan de Oro, for instance, a physician told Rappler that of the 20 patients in intensive care sometime last month, he counted 19 who were unvaccinated.

Maricel Rivera, Cagayan de Oro city information officer, said the local government’s data showed that 91% of all the people who died of COVID-19 in the city were unvaccinated.

Dr. Teodoro Yu Jr., a medical officer and data management focal person of the Cagayan de Oro City health office, said the local government has, so far, recorded 795 COVID-19-related deaths since 2020. Of this, 722 were all unvaccinated and only 73 or 9% received their jabs.

In Bukidnon, too

The same is true in Bukidnon province where officials campaigning for vaccination were struggling to convince people to make science-based decisions. 

A 76-year-old Bukidnon woman refused to get inoculated because she was afraid that the vaccine would only complicate her medical condition and that her faith in God was enough protection.

Her grandchild said the woman's position was similar to some of the false information on social media.

“For her [grandmother], COVID-19 is a test of faith,” she told Rappler.

She said when her grandmother got sick, she still refused to be tested and even threatened to complain to the police if some of her family members insisted.

After recovery, the elderly woman went on hosting religious gatherings at home and then hired a group of carpenters to renovate a part of her house.

“The carpenters were going in and out of the house. She [grandmother] behaved like she was in pre-COVID times,” the granddaughter said.

On September 5, the elderly woman's daughter, unvaccinated, died. Most of her children, like their grandmother, rejected the possibility that it was due to COVID-19 despite her symptoms. They had refused to have her tested.

"The reluctance had something to do with their religion," the granddaughter said.

Vaccination hesitancy has become a problem in Bukidnon's center of trade and commerce, Valencia City, where even young adults don't want to get inoculated because of false information on social media, said lawyer Genaro Cadigal Jr., the city administrator, and concurrent head of the local cadaver disposal team.

Cadigal said many of those who rejected vaccination were convinced that those who received jabs would eventually die, that the pandemic was part of a global conspiracy, that they would become zombies, or they were not healthy enough to be administered with it.

Valencia City saw 116 newly documented COVID-19 cases on Monday alone, accounting for much of Bukidnon province's 139 newly-detected infections that day. The city also logged seven COVID-19-related deaths and 1,369 active cases on the same day. – Rappler.com

Grace Cantal-Albasin

Albasin is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.

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