Councilor optimistic 'tweaked' immunization ordinance will muster support

Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte on Wednesday expressed optimism the refined immunization ordinance she passed in the City Council will get the support of her colleagues.

With new amendments she introduced in some of the provisions, the Committee on Health chair is confident that the measure will be approved.  

The ordinance entitled “Comprehensive Immunization to All infants and Children in Davao City” was supposed to be passed on the third reading but was remanded back to second reading after a group of oppositors expressed their concerns to some of the provisions. 

Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte

“I hope that my colleagues will support me dahil maganda ang layunin natin at yun ay matulungan natin ang ating mayor at ang DOH na wala nang outbreaks na mangyayari sa ating syudad,” she said in a phone interview. 

Villafuerte drafted the ordinance after a polio virus was discovered in Davao River last year. The said ordinance is one of the two legislations that she proposed and are still pending in the council. The other ordinance is the Zero Open defecation ordinance.

“These ordinances aim to response to polio outbreak. Nag-end ang ating polio-free status in the World Health Organization (WHO) due to the polio virus found in Davao River,” she said.  

Villafuerte explained that the goal of the ordinance is whenever parents go to the health center there will be an Early Child Care and Development (ECCD) card that will be given to them noting the vaccines that will be given to their children. “The parents keep this card and it is also my proposal that pag-pasok ng bata sa daycare center, hihingiin ng daycare center yung ECCD card at titingnan kung fully immunize ba yung bata? Then i-kontak niya ang nearest health center nga naa ko’y bata diri nga dili fully immunized. It is our duty to promote the government programs. Kasi ayaw natin ng mga outbreaks and a lot of outbreaks happened in schools.”

The original version of ordinance entitled “Mandatory Immunization of Infants and Children in Davao City” was changed to “Comprehensive Immunization to All infants and Children in Davao City” and was welcomed with disapproval by concern individuals she referred as “naturopathy” believers or those who believe in alternative medicine based on the theory that diseases can be successfully treated or prevented without the use of drugs, by techniques such as control of diet, exercise, and massage.

In fact, Edge Davao was tagged to a certain Facebook account of Joefel Soco Carreon who posted “an open letter and petition to defer the third and final reading and to do a subsequent through review of the proposed ordinance for the mandatory immunization of infants and children in Davao City”. 

Based on the post “The proposed ordinance, on the contrary, fails to clearly articulate how it can serve the best interest of children in this crucial time of pandemic. It is wanting of sufficient and comprehensive empirical basis that would have given such an important piece of legislation a more contextual picture on the real situation of children’s health in the city. And this includes a look into the vaccination programs in the years past and its effects on children and families. Such absence unfortunately deprives the ordinance of a holistic perspective that sees the child as a human being – growing, developing, capable of becoming if appropriate support from the family and institutions are present.” 

The post continues “Even when Section 10 of the proposed ordinance says that parents and legal guardians who refuse to have their children immunized will not be penalized, the groundwork will have been made by the proposed ordinance for furthering more stringent laws regarding mandatory immunizations. It must be reiterated that studies regarding vaccines and vaccine-intervention programs and information that weighs its pros and cons have not been exhausted and made available prior to the creation of the ordinance.”

She appealed to the petitioners, whom she had a meeting on Monday via Zoom, not to be offended with her proposed ordinance as vaccines are good and could prevent outbreak. She also emphasized that there will be no penalties for parents who refuse to have their children immunized. 

“Binago ko yung title after we talked. I only used the national law and it will be known as Comprehensive Immunization to All infants and children in Davao City at tinanggal ko na yung mandatory. Every child has a right to have a disease-free childhood, to be free from disability and not to die from a vaccine preventable disease. Let’s not bash each other. When you read the ordinance, wala naman penalties. You can refuse. Masabi ko meron exemptions in general,” she said. 

Villafuerte said she is also appealing to Councilor Pamela Librado-Morata, who requested her to reconsider the passage of the ordinance during the regular session on Tuesday due to lack of public consultation.  
“I appealed to her (Councilor Pamela Librado) na huwag ng ipa-defer ang ordinance. This is a long process. Dugay pa ni. Pag-pasa nato ani, this will go to City Legal, then it will go to the City Mayor. Puwede silang mag-lobby to the city mayor then go back and sit down with your group and make amendments. Sana ipa-approve muna natin at mag-introduce ka ang amendments afterwards na,” she said. 

Villafuerte said the Department of Education 11 (DepEd 11) and the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO), who were invited during the committee hearing, supported the ordinance believing that this will help stop outbreak in the schools and the communities. 

“As a doctor and legislator it is my duty to help the government implement its programs. As the chair on the committee on health, health ang aking tinutukan na mga issues,” she said.