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DILG to LGUs: Be proactive in seeking unvaccinated, eligible for booster shots following Omicron BA.4 detection

QUEZON CITY -- The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) today directed all local government units (LGUs) to proactively seek the unvaccinated and those individuals eligible for COVID-19 booster shots following the detection of the Omicron BA.4 subvariant in the Philippines.

DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año said BA.4 poses a threat to public health as it can evade immune protection from vaccination and prior infection. He said LGUs must maximize its resources and scour its jurisdiction to urge the unvaxxed and booster-eligible population to get vaccinated “as a precautionary measure versus a more transmissible Omicron variant and possible community transmission.”

“We direct all LGUs to be proactive in its vaccination efforts and seek these people who are eligible for inoculation. The Department of Health’s (DOH) detection of BA.4 signals the need for a more aggressive action to ensure that the people are vaccinated and protected against this highly contagious variant of COVID-19,” Año said.

According to the DOH, it detected the subvariant from a Filipino citizen who flew from the Middle East on May 4, 2022. The patient was confirmed positive with the more transmissible variant from a specimen collected on May 8, 2022. He was asymptomatic.

Año said that despite the transition of power to the newly-elected officials, LGUs must be ready to mobilize all its resources to identify citizens who are eligible for vaccination and booster shots in the face of the Omicron subvariant.

He said BA.4’s ability for faster transmission must be countered by improved vaccination turnout especially for people who are immunocompromised and vulnerable for possible transmission. He also underscored that even the vaccinated must be urged to get booster shots as the said variant can evade COVID-19 vaccination especially if its efficacy waned over time.

“Kailangan itong tiyagain ng mga pamahalaang lokal. Millions of Filipinos have been vaccinated months ago and that can work against our goal of protecting our people sapagkat itong BA.4 ay nakakalusot sa bakuna lalo na kung matagal nang naturukan,” Año said.

“Kung kinakailangang katukin ang bawat bahay para malaman kung sino ang dapat bakunahan, iyan po ang gawin natin,” he added.

The DOH said in its statement that “while the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has not observed any severity in BA.4, faster transmission will lead to a spike in cases that could overwhelm our hospitals and clinics.”

The DILG Secretary said LGUs must tap its established pandemic health units such as the Local COVID-19 Task Forces (LCTFs) and the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs) to aid the efforts of vaccinating more individuals “avoiding spike of cases which can be detrimental to our health system.”

The DILG directed LGUs to create LCTFs during the onset of the pandemic in 2020 to enable them to monitor and analyze COVID-19 data and to better address the issues and concerns of their constituents during the coronavirus health crisis.

LGUs were likewise directed to activate their BHERTs in 2020 to conduct visits in the homes of individuals possibly inflicted with COVID-19; initiate contact-tracing; and, report, on a daily basis, the condition of prospective and confirmed COVID-19 cases, among others.

“The LGUs have the existing tools to help them in identifying their constituents who must be vaccinated. We hope na gamitin nila ito to their advantage para mas marami pa ang mabakunahan,” Año said.

Get vaccinated, follow health protocols

Meanwhile, DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan E. Malaya encouraged the citizens to commit themselves in the vaccination program whether it is their first time or they are eligible for booster shots.

“Malaki po ang maitutulong natin sa laban kontra sa mas nakahahawang Omicron variant na ito kung tayo po ay magpapabakuna. We are not only protecting ourselves but are also contributing to the overall welfare of our nation,” Malaya said.

He also reminded the public to continue adhering to minimum public health standards (MPHS) “as these have greatly contributed to the recent decrease of COVID-19 cases in the country.”

“Maging matiyaga sana tayong mga Pilipino sa pagsunod sa MPHS lalo na kapag tayo ay nasa pampublikong lugar. We have seen how compliance to the MPHS, together with our vaccination program, led us to the downgraded Alert level in the country. Sana ay ma-sustain natin,” he added.

The DILG Spox likewise urged barangay volunteers to work with the LGUs in identifying citizens eligible for vaccination imploring them to enliven the ‘bayanihan spirit’ to counter the spread of Omicron BA.4 variant.

According to the ECDC the presence of Omicron BA.4 together with BA.5 could cause a significant overall increase in COVID-19 cases in the European Union in the coming weeks and months. (DILG)

About the Author

Kate Shiene Austria

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Central Office

Information Officer III under the Office of the Deputy Director-General-Digital Development Communications Unit of Philippine Information Agency. 

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