WHILE there's still uncertainty if we're finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, the news that greeted Biñanenses these past weeks have been very encouraging.
Thanks to an intensified Covid-19 vaccination program – and a strict implementation of all health protocols and restrictions – cases of Covid-19 in Biñan City, Laguna are finally going down to the levels seen during the first wave of the pandemic last year.
From a record 627 active cases reported at the height of the new surge last August 29, the city's two health offices are now reporting just 17 active cases more than two months later (November 16).
With the intensified vaccination program – which during the month of November had seen the start of “walk-in” vaccinations as well as those of minors – health officials in Biñan City say the city may be finally on the way to “herd immunity” against Covid-19.
This month, the city government has allowed the deployment of Covid-19 vaccines to walk-in recipients to contribute to the national government’s efforts to reach the so-called population protection against the coronavirus by the end of the year.
In the first day of the “walk-in” vaccination program last November 1, Biñan City immediately set a record of 4,600 residents vaccinated in a single day.
That record was later broken two weeks later on November 14, when 4,650 residents were vaccinated in a day.
According to the heads of the two City Health Offices (CHOs), the substantial increase in the city’s vaccine allocation has enabled them to expand the city’s Covid-19 vaccination program, including its much-vaunted “Vax on Wheels” program.
“Dahil sa pagdami ng bakuna na ating natatanggap, mas pinabibilis po natin ang bakunhan sa ating lungsod para makabawi tayo doon sa ating target na at least 70 percent,” Dr. Mirabelle Benjamin of CHO 1 told OpinYon Laguna.
Meanwhile, the city has also conducted "house-to-house" vaccination for those who were unable to proceed to the city's main vaccination sites due to illness, Dr. Jenalyn Mendoza, head of CHO 2, reported.
"Ang house-to-house [vaccination] ay matagal na po nating ginagawa...pero ito ay pili lang talaga sa mga bedridden na vaccinees, at yung meron pong medical certificate ng kanilang mga doktor," she added.
The house-to-house campaign, according to Dr. Benjamin, also aims to convince those who have yet to receive the Covid-19 vaccine to get themselves protected against the virus.
This month, Biñan City has also started out giving Covid-19 vaccines to minors aged 12 to 17 after the national government approved the use of vaccines for that category.
The pediatric vaccination, which first included those in the Pediatric A3 category (minors with comorbidities), has been expanded to junior and senior high school students.
The move is seen to protect the city’s most vulnerable population, especially with the targeted reopening of face-to-face classes in the coming months.
Fortunately (and especially in the light of the Dengvaxia fiasco a few years back), the response for the city’s pediatric Covid-19 vaccine program has been “enthusiastic.”
“Marami po sa mga magulang at kabataan ang nais magpabakuna at pabakunahan ang kanilang mga anak,” Hans Kristian Lorenzana of the City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (CESU) related.
To avoid crowding at the city's main vaccination sites, Dr. Mendoza also said that the city government has scheduled the rollout of Covid-19 for teens per school.
Private school students are also advised to coordinate with their respective schools for their vaccination schedule.
"Sa ngayon po, nakikita nating maraming tao at nagkakagulo sa mga vaccination area," Dr. Mendoza said.
"Ang kagandahan po ay inayos po ng ating Mayor [Arman Dimaguila, Jr. ang schedule], iniiwasan ang magklaroon ng umpukan at mahabang pila," she added.
As of November 18, the city government has administered vaccines to 209 minors belonging to the Pediatric A3 category and 4,431 under the Rest of Pediatric Population (ROPP) category, Lorenzana reported.
The city’s intensified Covid-19 vaccination program was also coupled with a stringent implementation on health protocols, especially on imposing so-called “granular lockdowns” on areas considered as high risk of the coronavirus.
“Isa sa mga paraan upang mapanatili natin ang pag baba ng kaso ng Covid-19 sa Lungsod ng Biñan ay ‘yung pagdedeklara ng critical zones sa mga areas na nagkakaroon ng clustering of cases,” Dr. Benjamin said.
“Sa ganoong paraan nako-contain natin ung virus at naiiwasan ung pagpasa nito sa ibang tao dahil limitado ang movement ng mga tao sa areas na declared as critical zones,” she explained.
The city government also established a temporary Covid-19 facility for residents who cannot isolate themselves inside their homes, Dr. Mendoza added.
For Covid-19 positive patients who are self-isolating inside their homes, the city government has partnered with the Biñan Medical Doctors Society to provide free teleconsultation services for them.
"Aside from that, patuloy pa rin ang ating kampanya at pagtuturo sa ating mga kababayan sa pagtupad ng minimum health protocols," she said.
For their part, Mayor Arman Dimaguila, Jr. and Vice Mayor Gel Alonte continue to urge Biñanenses to have themselves and their children vaccinated against the virus to fast-track a return to normalcy.
In his speech at the start of the Covid-19 pediatric vaccination last November 5, Dimaguila noted that while the city is fast approaching its “target population,” the local government unit is aiming for a 100-percent vaccination rate – or close to that – for Biñan City.
“Slowly but surely, mare-reach natin ang minimum na 70 percent [vaccination rate],” the mayor said. “Pero why not 99 percent? In fact, tsina-challenge na ang mga LGU na taasan pa ang kanilang vaccination rate. And that is why thankful tayo sa private sector, lalo na sa mga private hospitals, sa kanilang kooperasyon sa LGU natin.”
Meanwhile, Alonte took the opportunity to thank the medical frontliners who put their lives at risk to control the spread of the coronavirus and give aid to patients.
“Patuloy po nating ipapanalangin na sana, by next year, matapos na po itong pandemiya,” the vice mayor said.
Road to recovery
With an efficient roll out of vaccines that now includes the pediatric population, continued economic recovery is surely within sight of Biñan City.
It helps that the cases of Covid-19 are also on the downtrend in almost the entire particularly in Metro Manila which could further hasten the city’s march towards to progress that it used to enjoy before pandemic rained on its parade some two years ago.