Vaccination teams in Negros Occidental continue their efforts to reach more senior citizens to get protected against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) as the coverage rate among the province’s elderly population remains at only more than 50 percent.
As of April 28, data of the Department of Health-Western Visayas (DOH-6) showed merely 134,218 Negrenses in the 60 and above age group have been fully vaccinated out of 269,602 target individuals.
Dr. Ernell Tumimbang, provincial health officer, said although the vaccination coverage rate in Negros Occidental has already reached 71 percent of the target population, the number of vaccinees among senior citizens is still low.
“The number one reason is still hesitancy. We lack in terms of advocacy. We cannot make the elderly population understand (the need for vaccination). They are saying they don’t go out and their children are also saying the elders just stay at home,” he told reporters.
Tumimbang said since it is also difficult for senior citizens to travel to vaccination centers, they resorted to house-to-house campaigns and conducted advocacy beforehand among the target senior citizens.
However, when these elderly were already scheduled for vaccination at home, they still refused to avail of the Covid-19 vaccines, he added.
He said health insurance incentives are also being offered to the elderly who will get vaccinated yet the numbers seem to move really slow.
“I don’t know what is happening. That’s the reality. We can never force people to be vaccinated but we are doing everything. There are many factors that contribute to the non-vaccination of the individual. There also groups who campaign against vaccination,” Tumimbang said.
He suggested that local government units (LGUs) also conduct proper advocacy on the importance of vaccination in their respective areas.
Earlier, Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz II said the low vaccination coverage rate among the Negrense elderly is the reason why the entire Negros Occidental cannot yet be de-escalated to Alert Level 1, the lowest category in the country’s Covid-19 alert level system.
“There is a vulnerable sector, which is the senior citizens, who are not considered protected by the DOH. Unless the number of unvaccinated seniors will decrease, (the province) will have to stay in Alert Level 2,” he added.
In Negros Occidental, six LGUs have been placed under Alert Level 1 until April 30 by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases while the rest of the province is still under Alert Level 2.* (Nanette Guadalquiver)