While the local governments of San Luis in Pampanga and Las Piñas in Metro Manila are raffling off cows and a P1.5-million house and lot, motorcycles and grocery package respectively for residents who have been vaccinated, senior citizens in Barangays Lagao, San Isidro, Heights and other barangays in General Santos City (Gensan) believe getting vaccinated is just a shot in the dark.
“Why have you started vaccinating A3 but up to now you have not called up my husband who is a senior citizen,” a resident named Bethel said in a comment posted in Barangay Lagao’s Facebook page. “I don’t know where the problem lies since we signed up as early as March. I wonder why those who enlisted late got vaccinated first,” she added.
In another post, a senior citizen from City Heights said “My husband and I are both senior citizens but have not been called for vaccination even if we already registered.”
“I have registered with the barangay’s online system early April but was told to just wait. No call up to now so I went to Bgy. Lagao last week to personally fill up the form but still nothing. My neighbor went there to re-register as well but after three days she got called up for vaccination. So what is their system? My purok leader said I should go back to the barangay again and enlist” Irene, a senior citizen said in the vernacular.
Bethel and Irene are just two of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of senior citizens in Gensan who are willing to be vaccinated but have been left behind in the confusion and inefficiency of the vaccination system.
Worse, these people are categorized by the Department of Health as A2 or second in priority next to medical frontliners for vaccination, because of their vulnerability to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
While these senior citizens worry if they have been bypassed or simply forgotten in the vaccination round, A3s or those with comorbidities are already being vaccinated.
As early as April, senior citizens in the city have been asked to register through the barangay’s online platform. Lately, the city government urged residents to register through the TAPAT App which was previously used for the QR Code.
DOH said prioritization in vaccination is needed to directly reduce morbidity and mortality and preserve the health system capacity of the country,” DOH said.
“The identified priority group will be given nationwide access before the next priority group,” DOH said. If this was strictly followed, then A1 or healthcare workers (those who are willing at least) should have been vaccinated first and then the senior citizens before the sectors following.
Clearly there was a violation of this guideline. But who should be held accountable?
Efforts were made to reach the barangay officials of Lagao to no avail. Several calls were made to the Bgy. Hall at (083-5540439) but no one was available to officially talk on the issue. Repeated calls were made to the Hotline of Lagao RHU (09308333331) and Telemedicine Lagao (09979439387) but no one answered the phone or it is out of service.
Last May 24, Bgy. Lagao has issued a cut-off for the online registration of A1 and A2 and “the health unit will only be accepting walk-ins for A1 and A2.” It said the first dose of remaining A2 is on-going while it will soon start the first dose vaccination of A3. It has also started to accept registration for A4.
“I was in the vaccination area then someone around 40 —wala din daw syang comorbidity sumingit sa linya at pinauna dahil may kakilala sa loob (one woman around 40 years old without comorbidity was able to get in the line because she knew someone inside),” a concerned source from Barangay Bula told eNews.
In its COVID-19 Vaccination Update (Resbakuna Campaign Overall Accomplishment) as of May 28, 2021, LGU-Gensan said a total of 5,032 out of 8,058 healthcare workers (A1-second dose) have been fully vaccinated. A total of 1,173 out of 5,987 senior citizens have been fully vaccinated.
The inefficient vaccination system in the different barangays in Gensan is just a mirror of what is probably happening in the whole country. Many claim that COVID-19 is a great leveller because anyone, regardless of status, can get infected. But when it comes to vaccination, connections still play a big role.
The implementors of the vaccination program could have made a big difference in the country’s campaign against COVID-19 just by being efficient and true to their calling as public servants. Until something is done, the Bethel, Irene and the other senior citizens of Gensan and other parts of the Philippines, can only look up to the stars and wish that there is still governance in this part of the world.