Chaos at vaccination sites

Fake news on ‘no vax, no ayuda’ triggers rush of jab seekers

posted August 06, 2021 at 01:40 am
by  Vito Barcelo and Rio N. Araja, Joel E. Zurbano, Alena Mae Flores
Malacañang on Thursday ordered local officials to implement measures to control crowding in COVID-19 vaccination centers, warning them that failure to do so can be considered a dereliction of duty.

FALSE PROMISE. The drawing  power of  fake news once again has made a fool of many  residents who have made a beeline to several vaccination sites as early as the break of dawn in San Lazaro and Ayala Bridge (photo below), lured by the promise of instant aid (no vax, no ayuda), resulting in a chaotic situation where health and safety protocols have been completely disregarded. Authorities are quick to disperse the crowds by cancelling the vaccination for the day. Norman Cruz
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque issued this warning following reports that an unexpected number of people swarmed to vaccination centers in Manila.

Reports showed that the vaccine turnout in Manila was as high as 22,000 from the usual daily numbers of 1,000 to 2,000 per vaccination site.

“The President instructed that first, there should be crowd control. Second, it should be humane. Chaos should be prevented,” he said in Filipino at a Palace press briefing.

Roque reminded local officials to ensure that a scheduling system is followed to ensure that there are enough slots for those who show up at vaccination sites.

“Let us not turn vaccinations into super spreader events because vaccines will save lives, they should not endanger lives,” he added.

He said local officials should be able to control crowding because there are enough resources to implement minimum public health standards, and not implementing them was a form of dereliction of duty.

He said neglecting quarantine protocols in COVID-19 vaccination sites could spell disaster.

At the same time, Roque disputed suggestions that problems with the government’s messaging caused a surge of people to COVID-19 vaccination sites.

President Rodrigo Duterte last July 28 ordered the police and barangay officials to prevent unvaccinated people from going outside, telling them to escort them back to their homes if they did.

Roque later clarified that there is currently no enforcement of Duterte’s order to keep unvaccinated individuals at home.

“I think there are really some people spreading fake news. There are really some people who have nothing to do in their lives,” he said.

He assured the public that unvaccinated persons will still be allowed to leave their homes to buy essential items such as food and medicine.

Unvaccinated individuals in areas under the strictest enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) status will also continue to receive P1,000 per person, or a maximum of P4,000 per family under a government subsidy program.

Metro Manila will shift to an ECQ from Aug. 6 to 20 to prevent the spread of the highly contagious Delta COVID-19 variant.

Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso appealed for sobriety after throngs of people stormed vaccination sites in the city following reports of restrictions on unvaccinated people.

Domagoso urged those who wanted to be vaccinated to remain calm and observe discipline.

Domagoso made the call after Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna, who is on top of the city’s mass vaccination program, said they got information that throngs of people arrived on board vans and huge jeeps.

The big groups from other areas outside of the city disregarded the cut-off and barriers, prompting a shopping mall designated as a vaccination hub to temporarily close down.

The said throngs reportedly were rowdy, taking away the barriers put in the areas and insisting that they be allowed to continue queueing even if they were not even registered.

Lacuna noted these persons were from outside Manila, from areas such as Laguna and Cavite and told the marshals they rushed to the sites due to rumors that those who are unvaccinated will be arrested if they go out of their house during the ECQ.

The crowd estimates in the mall vaccination sites as provided by Manila Health Department (MHD) chief Dr. Arnold Pangan were as follows: SM San Lazaro -- 7,000 to 10,000 plus; SM Manila,5,000; Lucky Chinatown, 3,000 and Robinson’s Manila, 4,000.

Before this, Lacuna said, the sites were handling 1,000 to 2,000 people a day.

“And they are fully aware of the policies like the need to pre-register and have their QR codes ready, which was not the case with the throngs who went to the mall sites before dawn on Thursday.

Lacuna also said the persons who want to get their jabs in Manila fully know that there is a cut-off.

The unruly crowds forced the closure of the SM San Lazaro Mall and the cancellation of the vaccination slated there although the inoculation went on as scheduled in SM Manila, Lucky Chinatown and Robinson’s Manila.

Lacuna said 2,500 doses had been allocated per mall site.

The Quezon City government, meanwhile, emphasized it would have a no-walk-in policy in all vaccination sites to avoid overcrowding.

With the threat of the Delta variant, Mayor Joy Belmonte raised deep concern over reports of increased numbers of walk-ins in vaccination sites.

Unregistered individuals reportedly rushed to vaccination sites in recent days after some employers released orders that unvaccinated employees can no longer report to work, and thus cannot receive their daily wage or will be penalized with a deduction in their monthly salaries.

Belmonte denounced such workplace orders and tagged them as discriminatory.

“The employers have to understand that the delay in the vaccination of their employees had been due to the insufficient vaccine supply and sporadic delivery to local government units, thereby making it impossible to accommodate everyone. They should be lenient considering their employees remain unvaccinated not out of choice or refusal. As soon as the promised additional vaccine supplies are delivered to our city, we will make sure our workers are inoculated as soon as possible,” she said.

She said the city government backs the Department of Labor and Employment Labor Advisory No. 3 indicating that no employee shall be discriminated against in terms of tenure, promotion, training, pay, and other benefits or terminated from employment for those employees who refuse or fail to be vaccinated.

“Until such time as Congress enacts legislation to the contrary, we stand by the DOLE’s policy,” she said.

Workers and residents of Quezon City can register in the QCProtektodo Vaccination Program through the barangay-assisted process or by signing up through its online platform.

She reminded workers to register as soon as possible so that once vaccine supplies arrive, they can be given an inoculation schedule right away.

“They have to register because our system works on a first-in, first-out basis so the sooner they get in the list, the sooner they can get their schedule,” she said.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has asked the National Bureau of Investigation to track down individuals spreading misinformation that unvaccinated people will not be given cash assistance while the National Capital Region is under a two-week hard lockdown.

MMDA chairman Benjamin Abalos Jr. said news that only those who have been vaccinated shall be entitled to the financial assistance or ayuda are “fake and baseless.”

“To set the record straight, the distribution of ayuda and benefits or privileges is not anchored on whether an individual has been inoculated” said Abalos.

Meanwhile, he reiterated the commitment of the 17 local government units in Metro Manila to administer 250,000 jabs daily during the two-week ECQ period as the national government approved NCR’s request for 4 million vaccines to achieve population protection soon.

To date, more than 10 million total doses have been administered in Metro Manila. With 4 million more, at least 45 percent of the NCR population will be inoculated after the lockdown.

The Department of Health (DOH), too, clarified that whether one is vaccinated or not against COVID-19 vaccination will not have a bearing in employment or getting cash aid in areas with community quarantines.

It said vaccination would continue even during the lockdown.

“Let’s not believe fake news that vaccination status is needed for employment or receiving cash aid from the government. Avoid spreading fake news as it brings confusion to our countrymen,” the DOH said in a statement.

The Palace on Thursday said it may ask Congress for a supplemental budget should it need additional funds for the cash aid program for households under lockdown.

Citing Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, said the government will use dividends paid to the Bureau of Treasury by government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) to cover the P12-billion cash aid, Roque said.

“We will look for funding sources for cash aid. Now, Secretary Dominguez said our funding source will be the dividends of GOCCs. If that won’t be enough, we have savings. If it is still not enough, we will ask for a supplemental budget from Congress,” he said.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it will expedite the implementation of Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating

Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers or TUPAD program to ensure that displaced workers would still be able to earn a living for their families instead of totally being unemployed.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III expressed optimism that the country will bounce back after a two-week lockdown, as the Labor department continues to make interventions to protect and address the needs of workers during the ECQ period.

“Because of this two-week lockdown, we expect to see that the employment rate will go downward and unemployment will increase. But it is only for two weeks. I am confident we will bounce back after the two-week lockdown,” Bello said in a statement.

Bello has earlier requested a supplemental budget of P2 billion from the Department of Budget and Management to finance DOLE’s amelioration program COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program.

In other developments:

* The City of Taguig started its house-to-house distribution of food packs in the city as the government imposed a hard lockdown in Metro Manila. The distribution, according to Mayor Lino Edgardo Cayetano, was in anticipation of the two-week ECQ following the DOH’s confirmation of the local transmission of the highly contagious Delta variant in the Philippines. Each food pack includes rice, canned goods, coffee, energy drinks and instant noodles, good for consumption for three to four days.

* Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi on Thursday called on the oil sector to continue to provide fuel discounts to frontliners and the public amid the transition to the ECQ starting Friday. “The rising prices of oil in the world market is regrettably beyond our control. However, we as members of the energy family could help the financial burden of our countrymen in our continued battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Once again, I am appealing to our partners in the industry, the oil companies, if possible give fuel discounts to our frontliners and other countrymen in the face of the hardships due to the pandemic,” Cusi said in a video message.

* The Commission on Human Rights called on the government to revisit its vaccination protocols. Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said while they recognized the hard work of the local government units in ensuring public access to COVID-19 vaccines, it said there was room for improvement in ensuring the health and safety of people lining up for shots.

Topics: Department of Health , COVID-19 , Fake News , Isko Moreno , Manila City , Vaccination
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