Booster shots for HCWs
By Atty. Farah G. Decano
THE rapid increase in Covid cases is now resulting in a spiked demand for expert medical attention. Doctors, nurses, medical technologists, radiologists and other health care workers (HCWs) are overwhelmed by the influx of patients. They are, either, dying, getting sick, or psychologically drained. A lot have already chosen early retirement and resignation from the health service.
We heard about this HCWs’ plight last year. We are hearing it again, but this time, it is getting louder. We must put a plug into this seeming workforce hemorrhage. We must halt the continuous depletion of HCWs especially those whose skills and experiences will take years to replace.
The Department Of Health was right for prioritizing our HCWs in the mass vaccination of Filipinos that was initially rolled out in March 2020. Because they are involved in the treatment of Covid-infected persons, our health personnel are considered as engaging in high-risk activities.
The problem is, the effectivity of the doses wanes over a very short time. Probably, in just a year, the government must jab the entire population again. The bigger concern is, we are not even half-way through immunizing our people. Hence, the issue that besets our Department of Health is do we give booster shots to our HCWS or do we first vaccinate all, if not the majority of the Filipinos?
Granting that booster shots are effective and have no adverse effect, then HCWs must undergo reimmunization. We need to protect our dwindling workforce. Before the pandemic, the data shows that there are only 6 doctors for every 10,000 Filipinos. It is a blow against the healthcare system every time we lose one doctor. That means 1,666 Filipinos shall be deprived of professional attention.
This suggested public health policy of ranking up again the HCWs over those who have not been vaccinated is not a case of valuing the HCWs’ lives more than non-HCWs. By shielding the health workforce, we are valuing every Filipino life out there because we are assuring the provision of adequate and accessible medical service to our people.
Remember the rules demonstrated in airplanes during the flight? What must we do whenever there is a change in air pressure and the oxygen masks drop down? The adults must ensure that they put on their masks first before they help their kids wear theirs. Similarly, we must first secure the safety of HCWs so they could protect us in return.
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A few days ago, some health worker protested against the government’s seeming indifference towards their concerns. With the proliferation of the highly contagious Delta variant, danger abounds in their work environment, now more than ever. While the nation deemed them as heroic soldiers fighting an invisible enemy, we failed to look into their compensation packages and find out if they were enough to make them want to continue risking their lives. I totally get the rallyists. They have families to feed, too.
What got my admiration for the HCWs who went out of the streets was their fidelity to the Hippocratic Oath or its equivalent. They exercised their right to express their discontent and anger against the government but they later returned to their work station after their demonstration. I just hope that the organizers of the assembly ascertained that the protesters have been covered by others while they left their work stations.
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