LAST-MILE VACCINATION. Dr. Amelita Pangilinan of the Department of Health - Cordillera Administrative Region, in this photo taken in April 2022, says the agency has teamed up with local governments and other agencies to downgrade the entire region to an Alert Level 1. She said they are focusing their efforts on eight communities in Benguet and Ifugao that have low vaccination coverage. (PNA file photo by Liza T. Agoot)

BAGUIO CITY – The Department of Health in the Cordillera Administrative Region (DOH-CAR) has gone into the "last mile" phase of its vaccination campaign as it attempts to downgrade all provinces in the region to an Alert Level 1 by vaccinating more people against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

In a phone interview on Monday, Dr. Amelita Pangilinan, assistant regional director of the DOH-Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and the agency’s spokesperson, said its "Oplan Alert Level 1" aims to bring the vaccine and the vaccination program to the farthest places in the municipalities and place all the municipalities under the lowest existing alert level status.

The provinces of Benguet and Ifugao remain under Alert Level 2 with the said areas having below 70 percent vaccination accomplishment.

In Benguet, only the town of Buguias has been placed under Alert Level 1, with the 12 other municipalities still under Alert Level 2.

In Ifugao, the towns of Lamut and the capital town Lagawe are under Alert Level 1, while the nine other towns are under Alert Level 2.

An area should have vaccinated at least 70 percent of its target eligible population before it could be considered to be downgraded to an Alert Level 1, Pangilinan said.

The following municipalities are being targeted under the Last Mile program: Kibungan, Bakun, and Tuba in Benguet; and Tinoc, Asipulo, Hungduan, Banaue, and Aguinaldo in Ifugao.

In Kibungan, none of the 272 target senior citizens have been vaccinated in the villages of Badeo and Tacadang yet. In the villages of Bagu and Kayapa in Bakun, only 4 percent and 8.75 percent of the 75 and 160 elderly target population, respectively, have been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, only 28 of the 219 targets in Barangay Ansagan, Tuba town have been jabbed.

In Ifugao, the five targeted barangays have also recorded low vaccination coverage.

Tinoc has a 31.57-percent vaccination accomplishment out of the 1,134 targets; Asipulo with 39.28 percent of the 1,046 targets; Hungduan with 52.55 percent accomplishment of the 645 targets; Banaue with 56.16 percent rate of the 1,497 targets; and Aguinaldo with 66.75 percent accomplishment of the 1,330 targets.

Pangilinan said, “the identified common denominator of the identified areas for the last mile program is access to vaccination and vaccination hesitancy.”

The doctor said the department in the region has resorted to the emergency hiring of additional personnel who will help in the information campaign and vaccination in the identified areas and bring their accomplishment rate to a level of herd immunity by June this year.

“Malayo ang lakaran ng mga vaccinator pero kinakaya nila para matulungan tayo na ma-attain ang goal to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the whole eligible population (Vaccinators walk for long distances but they have to persevere so that they can help in attaining the goal of at least 70 percent of the whole eligible population),” Pangilinan also said.

She said they are working closely with the local governments and agencies to meet the target vaccination accomplishment.

“Vaccination is a whole of nation approach, everyone is asked to help because the vaccination of one is contributory to the attainment of the protection of all people,” the doctor said.

“With unprotected citizens may come a surge in cases and which can lead to a lockdown and we all know what that means to us in terms of the economy that is why we do not want that. Vaccines work. Take the booster after receiving the primary vaccines,” she added. (PNA)