The Covid-19 pandemic upended the lives of vulnerable people living in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas of Mindanao. In line with this, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has been escalating its Bakuna buses operations in Mindanao to improve vaccine adherence and increase vaccine uptakes in the region, especially in the high-risk population.
As of date, PRC’s Bakuna Buses and Bakuna Centers with Bakuna Teams, have administered a total of 325, 066 vaccines — 76, 876 individuals fully vaccinated and 51,238 persons boosted — in the region of Mindanao.
On 12 November, PRC Chairman Richard J. Gordon, ICRC officials and ICRC Vice President Gilles Carbonnier visited General Santos City to see the “Bakuna Bus” operations. “We have been doing this [Covid-19 vaccination programs] for almost two years. Ang kaibahan lang, dati nasa station ang ating mga vaccination drive pero ngayon mayroon ng mga buses. Ginagamit ang mga ‘to para mailapit ang bakuna sa mga taong nasa malalayong lugar. Ngayon, mas pagiigtingin natin ang pagbabakuna, partikular sa mga bata,” said PRC Chairman Gordon.
ICRC Impressed with PRC’s Bakuna Buses
ICRC Vice President Carbonnier, meanwhile, expressed his admiration for PRC’s humanitarian activities, “I am very impressed by the Philippine Red Cross, the commitment of the people, the sophistication of the different activities […]. I believe that regionally, it is key for me to come here to the Philippines especially because ICRC has many humanitarian activities in Mindanao. These are important operations that we will keep having, and I think it is important for us in ICRC to come and see with our own eyes what we collectively manage to do.”
“ICRC has always been supportive of the Philippine Red Cross’ Covid-19 interventions. They donated buses, equipped with a vaccine administration area and supplies, while we provided a cadre of volunteers to perform the task. Sa PRC, hindi pwedeng balewala ang mga binibigay na oportunidad para makatulong kasi hangarin namin na maiangat ang mga tao — hindi kami nag-aabot, kami ay nag-aangat ng mga tao,” Chairman Gordon explained.
In addition to Covid-19 vaccination programs, PRC is also planning to further expand its vaccination drive against vaccine-preventable diseases (i.e., typhoid, rubella). From 2019 to 2020, PRC, through the support of ICRC, vaccinated 127, 302 children against polio and measles-rubella. The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the immunization programs for these contagious diseases, placing children at higher risk of health complications.