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Gatchalian seeks ramped up vaccination of minors, teachers amid Omicron threat

Senator Win Gatchalian is pressing to accelerate the vaccination of minors and teachers following the global alarm on the COVID-19 variant Omicron.

DAGUPAN, PANGASINAN – Senator Win Gatchalian turns over PPE to health workers at the Region 1 Medical Center. Gatchalian is pushing for regular COVID-19 tests for teachers. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Omicron a variant of concern on November 26. While preliminary evidence suggests that Omicron poses an increased risk to reinfection, it remains unclear whether the variant is more transmissible and causes more diseases compared to other variants, including Delta. The WHO also announced that studies are currently underway to understand the effectiveness of vaccines, current tests, and treatments to this new variant.

Public health experts have reiterated that vaccination and the implementation of minimum public health standards are key to curb the spread of Omicron. Gatchalian also emphasized that vaccinating teachers and eligible learners will boost their protection and confidence, especially as the Departments of Health (DOH) and Education (DepEd) plan to increase the number of schools participating in the pilot implementation of limited face-to-face classes.

The DepEd recently announced that it is eyeing the inclusion of 177 more schools in the pilot implementation of in-person classes. On December 6, 28 schools in Metro Manila are scheduled to conduct dry runs as part of the pilot program. The capital region is considered low-risk for COVID-19 and will remain under Alert Level 2 until December 15.

“Dahil sa banta ng Omicron variant ng COVID-19, dapat nating paigtingin ang pagbabakuna sa mga guro at mga kabataan, lalo na’t ngayon pa lang sila unti-unting nakakabalik sa kanilang mga paaralan. Kung mababakunahan natin ang lahat ng mga guro at mga mag-aaral ay mas matitiyak natin ang kanilang kaligtasan at mapapanatili natin ang kanilang kumpiyansa,” said Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

The government is eyeing the vaccination of minors aged 5-11 by January 2022, provided that the Food and Drug Administration will grant emergency use approvals for children’s use by December.

Gatchalian is also pushing for regular COVID-19 tests for teachers. He recalled that two schools in Zambales deferred their participation in limited face-to-face classes after some teachers tested positive for COVID-19.