MANILA - President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said he wanted more students to receive their Covid-19 booster shots before face-to-face classes resume in November.
He made the statement while presiding over a meeting with officials of the Department of Health (DOH), Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to discuss the Covid-19 situation in the country and efforts to improve vaccination rates.
On his official Facebook page, Marcos shared photos of the meeting that took place in Malacanang Palace.
The meeting took place as Marcos has yet to announce who he will appoint as Secretary of the Department of Health.
"Habang masusi at maingat ang pagpili sa susunod na magiging kalihim ng Kagawaran ng Kalusugan, ating tinipon ang mga kasamahan natin mula sa DOH, IATF, at PhilHealth upang masiguro na ang pagbabakuna at booster shots ay tuloy-tuloy at lalong inilalapit sa taumbayan (While carefully selecting the next secretary of the Department of Health, we gathered our colleagues from DOH, IATF, and PhilHealth to ensure that vaccinations and booster shots are continued and brought closer to the people)," Marcos said.
Marcos on Tuesday announced the government is targeting to fully implement in-person classes nationwide by November.
He said Vice President and concurrent Education Secretary Sara Z. Duterte made the proposal during their first Cabinet meeting earlier on Tuesday.
In a press release from Malacanang, Marcos directed the DOH to increase the administration of booster shots by October before the planned full implementation of in-person classes in November.
"This is going to be very important lalo na (especially) in preparation for school in the coming semester. Ang plano ni VP Sara [The plan of VP Sara] to phase in already complete face-to-face. So sana ma-vaccinate (I hope they get vaccinated)," Marcos was quoted as saying.
He also directed the DOH to enhance their information campaign and extensively explain the importance of having a booster shot.
"We have to explain. The best explanation we can have is that for the Alpha and the following strains, the vaccine was two shots and it was sufficient for good immunity but still not full immunity," he added.
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, for her part, emphasized the need to mobilize the local governments through the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the employers through the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Civil Service Commission, and the schools through the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Education (DepEd), to ramp up the vaccinations for the primary series and the first booster shot from July up to September.
She also suggested redefining the term "fully vaccinated" to encourage people to get a booster shot.
"So currently, Mr. President, our definition of fully vaccinated only includes the primary series: the first and the second dose. So we are recommending that we can expand that it includes also the booster doses so that we can encourage more of our Filipinos to have their boosters," she said.
Aside from Vergeire and other health officials, among those present during the meeting were Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President Anton Lagdameo Jr., and Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr.
In a Palace press briefing, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles described vaccination among students as "an essential part of returning to face-to-face classes." (PNA)