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Rough Cuts: Erosion in people’s confidence

Early last week we raised the issue on the late advice of the representatives of the City Health Office (CHO) for the administration of the second dose of the anti-cervical cancer vaccine to young girls with ages 13 years or less. The second dose of the vaccine was undertaken in Barangay Talandang in Tugbok district last February 22. The original schedule, however, was sometime early in November last year. The reason given for the postponement of the November schedule was that the CHO teams assigned in Tugbok district including the one assigned to administer the vaccine in Talandang, were busy attending to a reported measles outbreak in one of the villages in Tugbok proper. We assume that the setting of February 22, 2019 as the new schedule could be the result of the complaints of some parents that they were already at a loss whether their young girls will still be given the second dose as at that time there were no words from the CHO.

And on February 21, the advice was released at the Barangay Health Center level informing parents to bring their kids the next day for vaccination that includes the second dose for the anti-cervical cancer and the anti-measles immunization.

But how can a less than 24-hour notice reach its intended targets who live with their parents in the barangay’s sitios as remote as three to five kilometers away from the barangay center? How can it reach parents of children or their guardians who are working in the city proper who leave the house in Talandang as early as 6 in the morning and be back home as late as 8 in the evening?  And assuming the working parents get the advice early the next morning (in the case of the Talandang schedule of February 22), how can the kids be convinced to be absent from their class if they already have prior activities set?

Thus, as expected, only a few were able to come for the second dose. And those who were there were mostly from families residing in the barangay center. Perhaps realizing their barely delivered health services, the CHO again announced another vaccination schedule. And this new sked was set last Friday, March 1, again at the Talandang Barangay Health Center. The advice was made late Tuesday, February 26, in the afternoon and was relayed to the families concerned Wednesday morning.

The two-day lead time somehow gave the families with young girls already administered the first dose comfortable time to make adjustments to their schedule.

But alas, last Thursday, February 28, or a day before the scheduled administration of the vaccine, the CHO official in-charge for the barangay vaccination decided to cancel the March 1 schedule because she was to attend a seminar.

Wow! Is this how CHO chief Dr. Josephine Villafuerte plucks out employees of the department to attend seminars? Is this how the CHO treats delivery of health services that its people just cancel schedules of vaccinations to give preference to attending seminars and trainings?

Did they ever consider the inconvenience their sudden change of schedule given to the families of vaccination beneficiaries? Did the CHO people know that without giving sufficient time to have the advice communicated to the intended beneficiaries the beneficiary families cannot make proper adjustments to their own activities and even expose them to unnecessary expenses?

Have they never thought that most of the beneficiaries belong to the marginalized sector of the barangay population that half a day that they are out of their livelihood activities, whatever these may be, could mean uncertainty for their family’s meal or two in a day?

Consider this: one sitio in Talandang called Miasug, and another Banarao; the roads are so dilapidated. Their distance is about 4 to 5 kilometers from the center of the barangay. Walking the distance could take one and a half to two hours because of the upward and downward climb. Add the very rugged road condition and it makes the hike to and from the health center area a walk to hell.

Of course there are the ‘habal-habal’ rides available for the hardy housewives; rides that can displace or boot out even the best internally-installed family planning contraception.

How much do these rides cost? Fifty pesos one way or a total of P100 back and forth. For mothers working in the city whose kids are also in school and who do not have the luxury of having relatives as yayas, both have to be absent.

And last Friday’s cancellation of the vaccination schedule was again another of the CHO team’s wanton disregard of the village residents’ entitlements to one of the government’s basic social services — protection from illnesses.

Now, should we be surprised if there is massive erosion of the people’s confidence in the government’s campaign for massive vaccination against communicable and other dreaded diseases like cancer?

These undesirable traits of some CHO people like cancelling earlier set vaccination schedules without giving ample time to have the advice reach the beneficiaries’ families do not need another Dengvaxia controversy to destroy whatever credibility is left of the government’s health delivery performance.

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