Press Release | 30 August 2022

The Department of Health (DOH) fully supports the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) as it updates its guidelines for full face-to-face classes in higher education institutions (HEIs). CHED consulted DOH and its health experts in arriving at the updated policy to allow students and HEI personnel, regardless of vaccination status, to participate in face-to-face classes.

In a meeting on National Heroes Day yesterday, August 29, DOH, CHED, and health experts convened to discuss the scientific bases for this update in policy. Policymakers noted the high COVID-19 vaccination coverage in Philippine higher education, with 77% of students and 90% of HEI personnel already fully vaccinated against the virus. DOH and health experts also presented Philippine data showing less infections in the 18-25 age group compared to other age groups, further to international data showing that Omicron and its sub-variants thus far have lower fatality or severity of disease.

“Our COVID-19 response is dynamic, and always follows the latest scientific recommendations available. The benefits of in-person and face-to-face schooling now outweigh the risk of COVID-19 infections. Face-to-face classes boost academic performance, improve on mental health and well-being, and help develop social engagement skills. Furthermore, many of our bright yet disadvantaged students find it difficult to spend on devices and internet access. Even as proof of vaccination is no longer needed, vaccination and boosters for all eligible individuals is still strongly recommended. Let us keep the wall of immunity strong,” said Dr. Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire, DOH Officer-in-Charge.

The Philippines joins at least five other countries in giving more weight on the value of in-person and face-to-face higher education, given the scientific bases above. This move is supported by the global community, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. The following countries have already removed the requirement for HEI students and personnel to show proof of vaccination: Australia, United Kingdom (but strongly encouraged), Canada (strongly recommended for congregate student-living settings), New Zealand, and Singapore (but unvaccinated students require biweekly testing for indoor dining).

“Our PinasLakas campaign for vaccination and boosters, plus continued adherence to the minimum public health standards make this return to university and college life on campus possible. Students and personnel should always be BIDA: wear the Best fitting mask, Isolate when sick, Double up protection with vaccination and boosters, and ensure good Airflow. The DOH will keep working with CHED and our colleges and universities to ensure safe higher education,” added OIC Vergeire.