Love in action: the people behind every vaccinated child in Binangonan, Rizal

Ensuring children are protected from life-threatening diseases

Pau Villanueva
Three adults, among them health workers, working together to administer a vaccine to a child
UNICEF Philippines/2022/Pau Villanueva
28 April 2022

In Barangay Gulod, Talim Island – a 45-minute motorboat ride from mainland Binangonan, Rizal – vaccination efforts continued even under the harshest lockdown conditions during the pandemic.

The Philippines has never reached the ideal target of 95% routine immunization coverage rate for children since the 1990s. However, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back the gains on childhood vaccination made in the past few years. Today, there are reportedly around 1.4 million zero-dose children in the country, more than half of the total children being born each year. This figure is also more than the 545,000 zero dose children in 2020. 

There is an urgent need to stop the backsliding of the country’s immunization efforts to prevent the re-emergence of life-threatening vaccine-preventable diseases, which remain to be one of the biggest risks to child mortality.  

For World Immunization Week, UNICEF spoke to the members of the community who make the vaccination of every child in Barangay Gulod possible – from the parent who religiously takes her children for timely vaccination to the security personnel of the health care center who oversees safe transport of vaccines. They give us a glimpse of the challenges they face in their roles, such as vaccine hesitancy in some members of the community and the unpredictable mobility restrictions in the thick of the pandemic, and what fueled their determination to overcome these challenges.

A mother carrying her child, their photo being taken by someone in foreground with a mobile phont
UNICEF Philippines/2022/Pau Villanueva
Theresa asks for her photo to be taken at the vaccine tarpaulin backdrop in the Barangay Health Center, where she took her child for scheduled routine vaccination.

Theresa Villadiego, stay-at-home mother 

Theresa takes care of her three children, the youngest at 1 year old. She initially had fears because of conflicting information surrounding vaccines, but eventually developed trust for them because she has seen how vaccines protect children in their community from life-threatening diseases. 

“I was scared, of course. But my faith in vaccines prevails because I have also seen the proven positive effects of vaccines on children,” she said.

Theresa makes sure that all her children are completely vaccinated, and that they receive their vaccine doses according to schedule. The ones eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, she brings them to the barangay health center. It also becomes an opportunity for her to talk to the doctor about other health concerns. 

A health worker administers a vaccine to a child inside a health center
UNICEF Philippines/2022/Pau Villanueva
Lucena vaccinates a child at a health center.

Lucena Mesa, midwife and persons with disabilities (PWD) assistant  

Lucena has been serving the community of Barangay Gulod, Binangonan, Rizal, as a midwife. Aside from helping women during childbirth, Lucena is also designated to assist children, senior citizens, and persons with disability during vaccination days at the health center. “We continuously rolled out the NIP and we observed health protocols. The mothers in our community obliged without fear,” she says.

The most challenging situation she encountered in the thick of the pandemic was when they went through quarantine and could not report to work because they showed symptoms of COVID-19, which affected the operations of the Barangay Health Center. “The experience was nerve-wracking. We felt the symptoms even prior to getting tested. We don’t want our patients to get infected,” she said. 

But Lucena conquered those fears because she took her role to heart. “We are frontliners,” she said. She and her colleagues went straight to work upon getting clearance from their doctor.  

A woman looks over a data monitoring sheet with a colleague while typing on a laptop computer
UNICEF Philippines/2022/Pau Villanueva
Donnalyn at work while encoding patient’s vaccine information.

Donnalyn Bolante, encoder and laboratory aide  

Donnalyn plays a vital role behind the scenes in the implementation of the National Immunization Program (NIP) in her community. When asked why her work is important too, she states how every piece of information counts in monitoring the immunization coverage of the community. Additionally, preparing essential documents such as vaccination cards for members of her community help make their lives easier.    

Whenever she needs to deliver work under constrained circumstances like limited connectivity,  Donnalyn still sees to it that she is able to transmit data and information on time using her own mobile data. “I love my job. This is also essential in supporting my child’s needs. It is difficult balancing work and motherhood, but I manage to make time for her. I only have one child, a 3-year-old,” she said.

A medical doctor conducting a check-up on a boy patient, using a stethoscope on the boy's chest.
UNICEF Philippines/2022/Pau Villanueva
Doctor Viktorija at work with her patients.

Viktorija Cirvinskaite, missionary doctor 

The love she has for the Filipino people motivates Viktorija to provide voluntary medical services to the communities in Binangonan, Rizal. As the only doctor in the barangay, she has very busy days. Viktoria has encountered resistance in encouraging parents and caregiver to get their children vaccinated but what really works is explaining the long-term effects in other aspects of their lives.  

“You live longer lives, you lessen your sick days, you save more money. It also helps lessen your day-to-day expenses,” she said."  

Vaccination days are also an opportunity to catch up on other medical matters. Dr. Victorija makes herself available to answer questions on vaccination side effects so that they can make informed decisions when it comes to vaccinating their children. 

A man going up a flight of stairs while carrying a temperature-controlled vaccine box carrier
UNICEF Philippines/2022/Pau Villanueva
Vonn transports vaccine and medical supplies in a vaccine carrier. Vaccines need to kept at a cold temperature to maintain their quality during transit.

Vonn Lennon Matematico, security personnel 

Vonn has been working as a security personnel at a healthcare facility in Binangonan, Rizal. He keeps everyone safe by making sure that patients who come to visit are following proper health protocols and transports vaccines and medicines where they are most needed. 

Vonn expressed fear towards vaccinations, as his daughter is prone to convulsions. Despite this, Vonn made it a point to educate himself about the risks and benefits of vaccines. He was eventually convinced that the pros far outweigh the cons, especially after experiencing the risks that come with his job as a security personnel exposed daily to many people, both healthy and sick.

UNICEF Philippines provides support to the Department of Health (DOH) in ensuring all children have access to safe and effective vaccines through the procurement of vaccines, transportation and logistics, cold chain equipment, medical supplies; capacity building for health workers and other frontline workers; development and dissemination of communication materials; planning and assessment of immunization campaigns; and strengthening of health information management systems.