With the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines for workers and employees in the city in place, questions are now raised on how to handle safety in workplaces when there are still employees who are not vaccinated.
Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio during her Special Hour program over Davao City Disaster Radio last Monday, September 27, tackled the question after the program’s host, May Benedicto, read a netizen’s question:
“Unsaon namo ning kauban namo sa work nga dili gyud siya nagpabakuna. Sya ra gyud gahi, kami tanan kauban niya fully vaccinated na.”
(How do we deal with our officemate who refuses to get vaccinated. She remains stubborn, while all of us have been fully vaccinated.)
Mayor Duterte assumes the worse on the unvaccinated.
“Assume nag napulo mo kabuok, maybe mag breakthrough infection mo, mild or asymptomatic mahitabo ana kay fully vaccinated mo. Assume nga wala moy severe comorbidities, sya na lang gyud isa ang mamatay diha sa inyong office, kay most likely, unvaccinated sya, severe ang kaso niya kung mahimong positive.
(Assume that there are ten of you, and maybe there will be a breakthrough infection. You will develop mild or asymptomatic cases because you are fully vaccinated, assuming you have no severe comorbidities. Then, there is one who’d die in your office, most likely, that person is unvaccinated. It will be a severe case once he or she gets positive).
The mayor paused and said she has a joke on that, but still answered the question.
“Seryoso nako nga tubag, pangutan-a ninyo ang inyong employer. Pwede ba ibulag ang vaccinated ug unvaccinated? Nga wala syay interaction with vaccinated,” she replied.
(My serious answer is, ask your employer. Is it possible to separate the vaccinated and unvaccinated? That is without interaction with the vaccinated,” she replied.
Duterte-Carpio then said, “Ang akong joke is baloton nato sya og bubble wrap. Baloton nato sya og bubble wrap, unya ibutang nato sya sa gawas, sya lang isa. Iyang lamesa igawas didto. Dinha dapit sa init. Ang kagaw magawas sa iya mainitan.
(My joke is, wrap that person in a bubble wrap. We wrap that person and put him/her outside alone. Bring out his/her table. There, under the sun. The virus comes out because of the heat.)
The program host blurted, “ka harsh!” (that’s harsh) and tried to put context on that matter.
“We have talked about this before, it will come to this point. Have you studied if it gets to the point that there will be discrimination against the unvaccinated?” she asked in the vernacular.
“For now, that is not our concern,” Duterte-Carpio said.
“Diha na na padulong sa DOLE. Kung unsa man desisyon sa DOLE or sa korte mao na kana. Pero sa karon wala pa syay guide, ang pinakamabuhat nila is mag discuss sa ilahang employer, nga i-segregate or separate ang unvaxxed sa illaha.”
(This will head to DOLE [Department of Labor and Employment]. Whatever decision that DOLE or the courts will make, so be it. But for now there is no guide, what they can do is discuss this with their employer, if they are going to segregate or separate the unvaccinated among them).
DOLE has ruled that vaccination should not be mandatory in workplaces or made a requisite for employment or firing employees in private companies. The nation has no law on mandatory vaccination for COVID-19.
The City Government of Davao, however, has ordered for all its staff and employees to get fully vaccinated by the end of the year or else their service contract will not be renewed for 2022. The mayor said government employees are not covered by the DOLE order.
The Davao City government has given full vaccination to 583,002 residents based on the city’s reports, as it tries to meet its target of 1.2 million to be fully vaccinated before the year ends.
The city is trying to boost its vaccination drive by giving incentives, as vaccine hesitancy is still prevalent. The mayor in the past has chided on disinformation that vaccines will turn people into zombies.
Dr. Josh San Pedro, from the Coalition of People’s Right to Health, believes that rather than doing “heavy policing and punitive actions” like what the mayor does, there should be more efforts to understand why people are hesitant to get vaccinated and from there take off for its information campaign.
“Alamin natin bakit ayaw. Kawalan ba ng tiwala sa sistemang pangkalusugan? Takot na walang sasalo kapag may nangyari? kulang ng impormasyong umaabot mismo sa komunidad?”
(We should know why the refusal. Is there a distrust in the health system? Fear on having no one will be held to account if something happens? The lack of information reaching the community?)
San Pedro also frowned on the mayor’s suggestion to segregate vaccinated and unvaccinated workers as a solution.
“People are forgetting that even vaccinated people can still test positive and be symptomatic, the solution is still to make testing accessible and encourage distancing,” he said.
Aside from that, San Pedro suggested better health monitoring and measures be implemented in workplaces.
“If they can improve ventilation (in workplaces), but if not, explore use of HEPA filters and (do) regular health monitoring – emphasizing the need for occupational health services and protocols,” he said.
HEPA is an acronym for “high efficiency particulate air (filter)” which the United States Environment Protection Agency said can “theoretically remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns (µm)” and is recommended for closed spaces to reduce airborne contaminants and virus.