SAFETY FIRST. A security guard makes sure health protocols are observed before anyone can enter the General Santos City Special Education Integrated School in General Santos City on Thursday (Aug. 25, 2022). Local school officials said they have partnered with the city health office for a school-based immunization drive against Covid-19 following the city’s low vax turnout of kids. (PNA photo by Guia A Rebollido)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – A school-based vaccination drive is underway in schools here after the City Health Office (CHO) listed a low turnout of children who availed of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines.

Romelito Flores, city schools division superintendent, said Friday they are working with the CHO in trying to get students immunized “as only about two percent of the age group 5 to 11 years old in this city have so far been vaccinated.”

CHO records showed that only 2,040 children in the 5-11 years old age group received Covid-19 vaccine shots.

Flores said there are about 89,676 enrollees that still need to be vaccinated.

“We are now closely coordinating with parents on this matter for the safety of students,” he said in an interview.

About 50 school heads have agreed to the plan, said Flores, who also raised concern about getting the consent of parents.

“We hope that they can understand the importance of getting vaccinated,” he said.

Dr. Karl Ivan Igrobay, a CHO officer, said they have set schedules for the school-based vaccination drive to address the problem of low turnout of vaccinated schoolchildren.

Igrobay noted that the school-based vaccination will include teachers and school personnel.

“At least 71 percent of the 12-17 age group in the city have been vaccinated,” Igrobay said.

The low vaccination turnout among kids can be traced to parents who fear the possible side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine on their children.

Flores said 23 public elementary schools and eight secondary schools have started holding full face-to-face classes since August 22.  

He said these schools are in far-flung villages where there are few enrollees, and necessary social distancing can be observed.

The city has 68 elementary and 26 secondary and senior high schools spread in 26 barangays. (PNA)