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Philippines scraps jab requirement at colleges

Catholic private schools association urges universities not to discriminate against unvaccinated
A passenger sits inside a bus next to signage that reads 'No Vaccine No Ride' in Quezon City, suburban Manila on January 17, 2022

A passenger sits inside a bus next to signage that reads 'No Vaccine No Ride' in Quezon City, suburban Manila on January 17, 2022.
(Photo: AFP)

Published: August 30, 2022 07:50 AM GMT
Updated: August 30, 2022 08:21 AM GMT

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education on Aug. 29 scrapped a requirement that all students and professors undergoing face-to-face classes should be fully vaccinated.

The announcement came after a panel of health experts rescinded an order by former president Rodrigo Duterte that only vaccinated students may attend classes.

“Our panel of health experts considered the international practice of universities and other learning institutions. They too had dropped the requirement upon learning from health experts that Covid-19 is contained as long as the majority of the population is vaccinated,” the commission’s chairman Prospero de Vera told reporters. 

De Vera said although vaccination was not required, universities and colleges were to report if their students had comorbidities such as heart ailment or diabetes so the school could prepare isolation wards should they be infected with the virus.

“I think those who are criticizing us [the Marcos government] that we are discriminating between the vaccinated and those who are not should be satisfied. Students and HEI [higher education institution] personnel, regardless of vaccination status, can participate in face-to-face classes. That is the most significant change in policy,” De Vera added.

The Health Department said it has granted its approval to the commission after considering the lower infection rate in the country.

"Other countries have dispensed with the vaccination requirement"

“We are changing it because vaccination levels are high and the percentage of at-risk individuals is significantly lower now and therefore easier to control on the part of our higher education institutions,” Health Secretary Janette Loreto-Garin said on Aug. 29.

The country’s Covid rate declined by 19 percent from Aug. 22-28, with 316 deaths, and 19,262 mild infections.

Garin also noted that other countries have dispensed with the vaccination requirement.

“We have considered studies from universities and colleges abroad particularly ones in the United States, Australia and Canada. As long as we practice minimum health protocols such as social distancing and effective washing of hands, everyone is safe,” she added.

“In the next couple of weeks, the Department of Health will start another round of campus-based vaccination programs for the rest of the unvaccinated students and also to push for boosters for those who have already been vaccinated.”

The Catholic Association of Private Schools said there was no other way to educate the masses about the benefits of vaccination but through learning institutions.

"The government should respect our choice not to have vaccines"

“We appeal not just to college or university administrators, but also to all students, please do not discriminate against those who have not yet been vaccinated. The more we isolate them, the more they will not be open to the benefits of having a vaccine,” the association’s executive secretary Dante Moran told UCA News.

Moran said the Commission on Higher Education’s policy would embrace both the vaccinated and unvaccinated to learn more about the pandemic and “hopefully” would result in a higher vaccination rate.

“Where else can you convince those who have not yet been vaccinated but inside the classroom? If this could be successful, then they would convince their parents, too?” Moran said.

Anti-vax advocates, however, said they needed laws and regulations to punish those who would discriminate against them.

“It is our choice and the government should respect our choice not to have vaccines. Thus, schools or classmates of our sons and daughters would discriminate against them, I hope there would be sanctions,” said anti-vaxxer Marilyn Diones, who’s sending two of her children to Catholic universities.

As of August, the Philippines had 65.9 percent of its population fully vaccinated or around 72 million people.

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