The Department of Health (DOH) spearheaded today the “Sabay Savaxx! Kontra COVID,” a symbolic vaccination event that highlighted the already ongoing roll-out of second booster doses for frontline healthcare workers (Priority Group A1) and senior citizens (Priority Group A2) at SM Megamall. The roll-out itself started last May 18 immediately after the WHO issued an interim statement on the use of additional booster doses against COVID-19, which stated that studies show that a second booster of mRNA vaccines in health workers and those over 60 years old has some short-term benefit.

SM Supermalls President Steven Tan, outgoing Mandaluyong City Mayor Benjamin Abalos Sr., Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Romando Artes, and  Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya witnessed the ceremonial second booster inoculation led by Health Undersecretary and National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) Chair Myrna Cabotaje, DOH-NCR Regional Health Director Dr. Gloria Balboa, incoming Antipolo City Mayor Casimiro Jun Ynares III, Mandaluyong City Health Office Dr. Arnold Abalos, and DOH Communication Office Director Dr. Albert Domingo. A1 vaccine recipients were composed of a barangay health worker (BHW), a nurse, and a doctor, while A2 vaccine recipients were composed of senior citizens and persons with disability (PWD).  

“You know if there is any motivation, I wish this vaccination was invented much earlier, I wish it was invented sometime in 2019 or early days of 2020. You know why? I lost my wife (part of the A1 population) because there was no vaccination then. I was also a victim of COVID, and so was my wife. Unfortunately, as I’ve said wala pong vaccination (there was no vaccination then), and that is the result,” expressed incoming Mandaluyong City Mayor Benjamin Abalos, Sr. 

Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Romando Artes also highlighted that vaccines and boosters are essential, as he also mentioned how former MMDA Chair Danilo Lim also succumbed to COVID-19 as vaccines were not yet available back then. “Kaya hindi po natin pwede i-discount, at dapat pong i-highlight sa lahat yung importansya ng pagbabakuna. Hindi lamang po yung primary series, ganun rin po yung booster shots. Kaya po kami sa MMDA, katulong po namin ang mga local chief executives at mga LGUs na patuloy na nanghihikayat na mag booster po ang ating mga kababayan (We cannot discount, and we should even highlight to all the importance of vaccination – not only the primary series, but also booster shots. That is why we at MMDA are working with local chief executives and local government units in continuously urging our citizens to get a booster shot),” the MMDA head concluded. 

As recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), healthcare workers are advised to be vaccinated with 2nd booster doses as they serve as frontliners in fighting the virus. On the other hand, the elderly – along with the immunocompromised adults, are also advised to take additional doses as they are more susceptible to severe and critical symptoms of COVID-19.

“Mahilig ang mga Pilipino sa sabong. Sa  pagkakaalam ko po, kung gusto mo  manalo, yung patuka po sa manok, may booster. So kung maraming Pilipinong sabungero, maganda po sanang icompare kung sa mga sabungero, ilan po ang nag pa booster na. Hindi po ako sabungero pero bilang isang doktor, naniniwala po ako sa kahalagahan ng booster para hindi tayo matalo ng sakit na dulot ng virus (Filipinos love sabong. To my knowledge, if you want to win, the chicken feed must have a booster. So if there are many Filipino sabungeros, it would be nice to compare how many among the sabungeros have already had their boosters. I am not a sabungero, but as a doctor, I believe in the importance of a booster so that we will not lose to the disease caused by the virus),” Antipolo City Mayor-elect Casimiro Jun Ynares III shared.

BHWs were also included in the list of those eligible for 2nd boosters as they perform a vital role in the Prevent, Detect, Integrate, Treat, Reintegrate (PDITR) approach as part of the 3rd Door of the Four Door Strategy against re-emerging infectious diseases. The BHWs, through the leadership of local chief executives (LCEs), compose the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs), who are in-charge of contact tracing, isolating, and monitoring of their local cases. They are also handling the vaccination drives in their respective areas.

“Nung tayo po ay nagbakuna ng may comorbidity, ang gusto natin sa ospital initially. Sabi ni Mayor Menchi (Abalos), pwede dito sa may SM Megamall. Dahil sa kanyang suggestion, we did the vaccination of those with comorbidities not in the hospital but in SM Megamall. So that is an example of how good our local chief executives are. Kapang-kapa na nila ang ating pagbabakuna and the COVID response. Of course they are supported by their local health workers. Pangalawang gusto nating iparating ay the virus is unpredictable, nagbabago-bago kaya we should not put our guards down (When we were vaccinating those with comorbidities, we wanted to do so initially at hospitals. Mayor Menchi Abalos said that we could do it here at SM Megamall. Because of her suggestion, we did the vaccination of those with comorbidities not in the hospital but in SM Megamall. So that is an example of how good our local chief executives are. They are very familiar with our vaccination drive and the COVID response. Of course they are supported by their local health workers. We also want to emphasize that the virus is unpredictable, ever-changing, which is why we should not put our guards down),” said Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje.   

As the Department reassures the public that every eligible Filipino is protected against the virus, vaccines are made more accessible through vaccination sites in pharmacies, schools, churches, and transportation centers – as well as the conducting of house-to-house vaccination.

“Nakikiusap po kami and we appeal to all local government units again to ramp-up vaccination. We understand the situation dahil eleksyon (because of the elections), so many of our local government officials including the employees of local government units were busy assisting the COMELEC, as COMELEC deputies, and campaigning for their re-election. Ngayong tapos na po ang eleksyon (now that the elections are over), we expect now that the LGUs will again ramp up vaccination,” said Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya.

The DOH continuously reminds the public that getting vaccinated is the best-defense and best long-term solution in this pandemic.