Coronavirus disease fatalities of unvaccinated individuals in Puerto Princesa City spiked in September, according to a breakdown provided by the City Information Office (CIO), prompting health authorities to encourage residents to seek vaccinations more aggressively than before.

The tally, which began in June this year, indicated that 116 of the 129 mortality occurred in individuals who were not vaccinated against COVID-19, while 10 were just first-dose recipients. Only three individuals who were completely immunized died of coronavirus-related diseases.

As a response, the city’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) will meet on Sunday to examine potential tighter protocols, according to Dr. Ralph Marco Flores, director of the city’s Incident Management Team (IMT) contact tracing division.

Flores said in an interview that the increasing incidence of unvaccinated fatalities serves as an urgent reminder to city residents to be vaccinated since COVID-19 deaths are more common among unvaccinated people who are either elderly or have underlying illnesses.

“From our experience, we are seeing that majority of our mortalities come from the vulnerable groups such as the older population aging 60 and above or persons with pre-existing health conditions. In addition, most of our cases also have no vaccine or incomplete doses,” Flores said in an interview through Facebook messenger.

He added that even though seniors and persons with comorbidities had priority inoculation during the city’s early vaccination efforts, many still remain unvaccinated because of misinformation, having vaccine brand preferences, or being afraid of side effects.

“Based on my observation lang ‘to, as an assessor on the vaccination, many people are commenting na ‘matapang’ daw ang AstraZeneca, that’s why ayaw nila. Kapag Sinovac naman hindi efficacious, etc. and most prefer Moderna and Pfizer. Grabe ang pila sa coliseum if those vaccines are available. I know people have the right to choose but there is a worldwide supply problem,” said Flores.

Stricter protocols to be discussed
City IMT chief Dr. Dean Palanca, in a separate phone interview, said that in the upcoming city IATF meeting, they will pitch for the return of stricter public health protocols. These include earlier curfew hours, more mass gathering restrictions.

“Magkakaroon tayo ng heightened restrictions, lalo na sa gatherings. Kasama sa recommendations ang curfew hours. Pero pagbobotohan pa ‘yan,” he said.

Palanca said that all these will be voted upon by members of the IATF. Representatives from other sectors will also give their suggestions on what kind of restrictions will be in place.

Current mass gathering restrictions in Puerto Princesa are limited to only 10 persons in a certain event, and must seek approval first from the city IMT before proceeding with the event. (with a report from Celeste Anna Formoso)