Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday prodded Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta to comply with government rules on unvaccinated people like her regarding onsite work.
Guevarra said he advised Acosta on Covid-19 work protocols after she admitted in a television interview that she’s not inclined to get vaccinated against Covid-19 due to her age and other health considerations.
“If unvaccinated but must report for onsite work, the requirement is to at least undergo RT-PCR or antigen testing once every two weeks,” Guevarra told reporters, referring to his message to Acosta.
On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon called on Malacañang and the Department of Justice (DoJ) to stop the PAO chief from reporting to work until she gets vaccinated.
Drilon said that Acosta being unvaccinated runs counter with the government’s ongoing push to get more Filipinos better protected against Covid-19, which has infected over 3.32 million people in the Philippines.
Joining the fray, the Department of Health (DoH) called on all government officials and workers to get the anti-Covid shots, saying unvaccinated people put their co-workers at risk.
The department noted reports that some officials have remained unvaccinated even as the government steps up its inoculation efforts to protect people from the dreaded disease.
“In accordance with the directives of the President, we are appealing to our government officials to get vaccinated,” Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said in a televised briefing.
“They not only put themselves at risk, but also those who were vaccinated because they may get infected, causing Covid-19 spread in the workplace,” she added.
Cabotaje, who is also chairperson of the national Covid-19 vaccination operations center, acknowledged that immunization remains optional in the Philippines.
She did not name the unvaccinated government officials she was referring to.
Acosta, in her defense, said that while she is not an “anti-vaxxer,” her health choices should be respected. “We should respect people who do not want to be vaccinated. This is a right of refusal,” she said.
“Let us not deprive those unvaccinated but healthy of their right to go to work because they have families to feed. And the RT-PCR which is being required should not be shouldered by the workers since it will eat up their measly salaries,” Acosta added.
She said that no Philippine law mandates Covid-19 vaccination.
At the height of the Dengvaxia fiasco, Acosta repeatedly claimed that children who had received the anti-dengue vaccine supposedly died because of their jabs. Her claim had been refuted by the government.
The Dengvaxia controversy created a national health scare that saw immunization rates for various diseases like measles and polio plummeting in the country.
As for Covid-19 vaccination, the government launched various initiatives to address vaccine hesitancy such as information campaigns and putting up various inoculation sites across the country.
On Thursday, five select pharmacies in Metro Manila began offering Covid-19 booster jabs to make vaccines accessible to more people.
The program is expected to expand to other drug stores in the country.
Over 56.44 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, while 5.61 million individuals have received booster shots.