REGARDLESS OF VAX STATUS. Commission on Higher Education chairperson J. Prospero de Vera III announces a new policy allowing the unvaccinated to attend face-to-face classes during a virtual briefing on Monday (Aug. 29, 2022). The new policy covers students, teachers and non-teaching personnel. (Screengrab)

MANILA – Vaccination status against Covid-19 will no longer be made as a basis for students, teachers and non-teaching personnel attending in-person classes in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), the Commission on Higher Education announced Monday.

In a virtual press conference, CHED chairperson J. Prospero de Vera III said this significant change of policy was based on several considerations.

“We’re allowing vaccinated and unvaccinated students and faculty members, and employees to now go face-to-face classes, or to report back to work. That is the revised policy as of today,” he said.

Considerations include high vaccination coverage in HEIs, lowered risk classification in the country, and other parameters, which he said must be clearly “explained” by all HEIs.

“We are changing it because vaccination levels are already high in the higher education institutions, the percentage of at-risk individuals is significantly lower now, and therefore easier to control on the part of our HEIs, and just like in other countries… we have already learned about how other countries have been doing it and applying it, and of course the views of our health experts that those who are at risk do not tend to be the higher education age group,” he said.

Last week, the Public Attorney's Office called on CHED to review its policy and issue a similar policy with the Department of Education, emphasizing a non-discriminatory setup for all learners, regardless of vaccination status, for face-to-face learning.

The CHED also said they are giving discretion to HEIs, particularly in deciding on the health protocols such as securing temperature checks and declaration forms.

Special Adviser to CHED chairman Dr. Joselito Villaruz commended the commission’s decision that, he said, opened “exciting times” for students.

“I just like to commend the Commission for this breakthrough development in terms of policy, and I would just like to remind the schools to probably observe vigilance on the gradual return of students to face-to-face whether vaccinated or unvaccinated as this will provide us with a better way in delivering instruction to our students,” he said.

Special Adviser to CHED chairman Dr. Anna Ong-Lim, however, said students and other personnel must carefully observe isolation if several symptoms are experienced to avoid further transmission.

“Siguro ‘yung ating old paradigm na pursigido talaga tayong pumasok kahit ano pang nararamdaman natin, hindi na po yan pwede ngayon, dahil pinag-iingatan natin ang sarili natin, pati na rin ang mga kasama sa ating mga paaralan (Maybe the old paradigm of being dedicated to go to school despite feeling unwell can no longer be insisted nowadays, because we are taking care of ourselves and others, even our fellows in school),” she said.

Ong-Lim also underscored the need to be vaccinated, even though the new policy poses no requisition on vaccination status.

“The risk is actually higher for the unvaccinated than those who are vaccinated. So we want to remind everybody that vaccines provide the best protection or provide a good layer of protection together with everything else that we practice,” she said.

De Vera said vaccination in HEIs remains high both for teaching personnel and students.

“In higher ed, we have a very high vaccination rate, as high as 90 percent for HEI personnel, and close to 80 percent or about 77 percent for our students. This is a result of a school-based vaccination program that started around September of 2020,” De Vera said.

Among students, around 3,145,883 were inoculated and 946,345 remain unvaccinated. (PNA)