WAITING. Jennifer Samuel (left) and her partner, Gary Anacleto (on his back) wait for their numbers to be called in one of the 20 vaccination sites in Cagayan de Oro City on Monday (Nov. 29, 2021). Samuel said they took the opportunity to get vaccinated against Covid-19 in the government's national vaccination drive from November 29 to December 1 because they live in a far-flung community. (PNA photo by Nef Luczon)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY - Residents living in far-flung communities on Monday took the opportunity to get their first dose of the anti-coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine at the start of the three-day national vaccination drive in this city.

Among them were common-law couple Jennifer Samuel, 30, and Gary Anacleto, 31, who even brought their three children to the vaccination site at the Canitoan Elementary School (CES) in Barangay Canitoan of this city.

The couple came from Sitio Camalihig in the neighboring Barangay Pagatpat.

Samuel said she brought the children along because no one would take care of them at their house. He said they had been trying to secure slots as early as 10 p.m. of Sunday. Other residents have also begun lining up as early as midnight.

"We went first in Pagatpat (Elementary School - PES) but there were already many who were waiting, so we got here in Canitoan. At about 3 a.m., there were 40 of us waiting," Samuel said in the vernacular during an interview.

The CES and PES in Barangay Pagatpat were two of the 20 vaccination sites opened by the city government for the three-day vaccination rollout dubbed as "Bayanihan Bakunahan: Ligtas. Lakas. Buong Pinas."

Because of the bulk of registrations during the first day, the city government experienced a technical problem that further delayed the vaccination process.

By 1:50 p.m., the CES has only inoculated three recipients from the more or less 350 people waiting for their turn, which included Samuel with her waiting number 218, and Anacleto, who was waitlisted at 231.

"We will wait here until we get called because we can't afford to come back tomorrow (November 30), my partner is a tricycle driver and if we don't get back to work tomorrow, we don't have anything to eat for the day," Samuel said.

To save on transportation expenses, some of the vaccine recipients who came from far-flung communities decided to get vaccinated at the nearest vaccination sites instead of traveling to the city's main vaccination centers.

Meanwhile, at the PES vaccination site, 61-year-old Betty Cabulay was one of the first 90 recipients who were vaccinated after the registration system was restored by 10 a.m.

She was the last person in her family to get vaccinated because she initially was hesitant.

Cabulay had already registered to get inoculated on December 6 in another barangay but because a vaccination site near her place of residence, in Barangay San Simon, was activated for the three-day drive, she took the opportunity along with her neighbors.

"We went there earlier and waited when there was a problem (technical system delay), but despite the wait, the process was smooth," she said.

Mass vax

The Department of Health in Northern Mindanao (DOH-10) formally launched here the three-day vaccination drive at the St. Augustine Metropolitan Church.

DOH – Region 10 Director Jose Llacuna Jr. said immunization is the best preventive measure of any infectious diseases and that this event is a concrete action to end the continuing threat of Covid-19 in the country.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar personally went to the city to witness the launch.

“With our three-day Bayanihan, Bakunahan national vaccination activity, we are confident that this will be another catalyst that will contribute to our nation’s recovery as we aim to utilize at least nine million doses of Covid-19 vaccines for the Filipinos,” he said.

During his speech, Andanar commended the unrelenting efforts of front-line health workers in facing the coronavirus disease Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Fr. Coke Daryl Prieto said the Catholic church supports the government's vaccination drive.

“The church as a mother opens her doors to support the government even to the point of opening her facilities, parishes and halls and other areas to be quarantine areas and vaccination sites,” he said.

He also said 98 percent of priests under the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro have already been vaccinated, adding that they got inoculated not just for their safety but also for their parishioners.

"We could never be shepherds to our people if we will be putting them in danger by making ourselves vulnerable to the virus,” Prieto said.

Volunteer groups

Other private organizations also volunteered in the three-day activity, such as the Gold Stallion Eagles Club (GSEC) which assisted the vaccination inside Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan.

The vaccination site offers Covid-19 first dose vaccine to adults, and 12 to 17-year-old minors with no comorbidities.

“This is the participation of the Golden Stallion Eagles club, together with the Local Government of Cagayan de Oro City to help fight and end Covid-19,” GSEC president Jimmy Caiña said.

Club volunteers aided in keeping the queues orderly and provided assistance to front-liners in the area. (PNA)