VACCINATION. Tomasa Amurao, a 101-year-old resident of Barangay Talon Dos, Las Piñas City, receives a shot of AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday (April 1, 2021). She was accompanied by her pediatrician-grandson, Dr. Benjamir Cabrera. (Contributed photo)

MANILA – Among local government units (LGUs) that have started inoculating the elderly, Las Piñas City has the oldest so far in 101-year-old Tomasa Amurao, well-known as "Nanay Po" in Barangay Talon Dos, Las Piñas City.

Amurao’s first dose of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine was administered on April 1. It helped that she has a doctor grandson, Dr. Benjamir Cabrera, who accompanied her.

"Nanay Po is rare and not many will reach her age," Cabrera told the Philippine News Agency in an online interview, adding he was more excited than his brave grandmother.

He cited the significance of Amurao’s vaccination.

"Malaking bagay sa kanila ang bakuna since tatlo silang senior citizens sa bahay nila. Kasama nya ang Tita namin, anak ni Nanay at asawa ni Tita na parehong seniors (The vaccine is a huge help for them since there are two other senior citizens in their house, my auntie who is Nanay Po’s daughter and auntie’s husband)," Cabrera said.

All three have not been going out since the pandemic began. Her grandmother had to give up walking around their village and to go to church.

Amurao was hesitant at first to get vaccinated

"Nang ininform ako na pwedeng mag-substitution list sa mga seniors ay tinawagan ko agad sina Nanay Po. Nung una ay nag-alangan sya kasi ngayon lang sya lalabas ng bahay (When I was informed that she could be in the substitution list for seniors, I immediately called up Nanay Po. At first, she was hesitant because she hasn’t been out for a long time), after more than a year," he said.

To soothe his grandmother’s fear, Cabrera fetched her and took her to the vaccination center.

After two and half hours of waiting, Nanay Po finally got inoculated.

Cabrera said she did not experience any adverse effects, like the usual fever, soreness, or body pain.

But she complained, in jest: "Matalas ang karayom (The needle was sharp).”

Now that she got her first dose, Amurao wants to do her usual walking routine again but was cautioned to put if off until after she gets the full dose.

"This pandemic really affected the elderly, like Nanay Po. They exercise by walking and it improves their endurance and balance," Cabrera said.

“Nanay Po used to walk for 1.5 to three kilometers daily. She has the best disposition, always giggling, and healthy. The pandemic somewhat weakened her.”

With the vaccination campaign of the government now rolling, Cabrera is hopeful the elderly will avail of the protection.

He was proud to witness the inoculation of his grandmother.

"We wish all the best for Nanay Po. She wants to live more than 110 years old which we all desire para lagi kaming mapaalalahan ng (so we can be reminded on) how to really live," Cabrera said.

"We should care for and cherish them and learn from them the secret of a long, fulfilled life."

Doctor's advice

Cabrera, a pediatrician at the Perpetual Help Medical Center-Las Piñas, has also received his first dose.

He said it is his contribution to the country's pandemic response.

"Pumayag akong mabakunahan (I agreed to get vaccinated) by choice since as a pediatrician, we give and recommend vaccination to prevent diseases. We have full trust in the medical experts under Food and Drug Administration. They are responsible for screening the safety and efficacy of the vaccines with EUAs [Emergency Use Authorizations]," he said.

"I never had vaccine hesitancy, as long as the vaccines are screened by my colleagues who are experts," he continued.

Apart from some mild pain and soreness on his left shoulder, he said he felt okay.

Cabrera said getting inoculated should be accompanied by continuous adherence to minimum health standards.

GOT VACCINATED. Dr. Benjamir M. Cabrera, a pediatrician of Perpetual Help Medical Center-Las Piñas, gets his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on March 14. He urges the public to continue observing minimum health standards, such as wearing of mask and face shield, even after getting vaccinated. (Contributed photo)

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If majority of the Filipinos will be vaccinated, Cabrera said the pandemic's impacts on the economy will be mitigated.

"Kami ay nagtitiwala at nanghihikayat na lahat ay magpabakuna, huwag sayangin ang chance na makabangon tayo (We have full trust and we encourage others to get vaccinated and don't waste the chance to bounce back)," he said.

"People should not be afraid of getting inoculated. Instead, they must be scared of the threats posed by the Sars-Cov2 virus that could kill anyone."

The Philippines immediately started inoculating health workers on March 1 while some Metro Manila LGUs began with the elderly and persons with comorbidities on March 30.

The country's vaccination rate has significantly increased from 35,000 within the first week of March to 271,459 within the last week.

So far, there are 2,596 active vaccination sites nationwide. (PNA)