residents in far-flung areas, welcome PRC Bakuna Bus
factory worker from Zamboanga City gets the COVID-19 vaccine.
(Photo: D. Alfonso/ICRC)
July 25, 2022
MAKATI – Finally,
after waiting for months, Melissa Bajolo can breathe a sigh of
relief. The factory worker has received her booster shot from the
Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Bakuna (vaccine) Bus, a four-wheel
vehicle that goes around Zamboanga City to provide vaccines to those
who want to get their COVID-19 jabs.
A laborer at a sardine
plant, Melissa has found it difficult to go to the city’s
vaccination center because doing so means being absent from work for
an entire day. Being gone means losing the day’s wages. But she is
determined to get vaccinated--it was the only way that she can get
protected against COVID-19.
“Thank you, Red Cross for
doing the vaccination right here in our workplace,” she says a few
minutes after getting her jab.
Melissa is one of the
hundreds of Zamboanga factory workers who have received booster
shots from the PRC Bakuna Bus, an initiative that was made possible
through a partnership with the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC). Fully equipped to store vaccines and manned by PRC
staff and dedicated volunteers, the bus has also vaccinated
detainees in Cebu, in coordination with authorities, as well as
residents of far-flung villages in Mindanao.
Recovering from the
Like other urban centers
in the country, Zamboanga, which has a population of a million
people, has been hit particularly hard by the COVID pandemic. Its
economy relies on the more than 10 sardine canning plants that
employ hundreds of people. When Zamboanga was placed on lockdown,
the factories had to operate under limited capacity to ensure that
physical distancing was followed.
The steady arrival of
vaccines was a step toward normalcy but bringing them closer to
people proved to be a challenge. The arrival of the PRC Bakuna Bus
has been a game-changer for the residents of Zamboanga.
Jose C. Sy, Melissa’s
co-worker at the canning plant, was in the same boat as his
colleague. He couldn’t take a day off to go to the vaccination
“One day-off means one day
without pay, which is a loss of income for me and my family,” he
When the PRC Bakuna Bus
arrived at his workplace, Jose grabbed the opportunity. After months
of waiting, he can finally rest easy. The vaccine eases his worries
about getting hospitalized with severe COVID.
Mylene Badiango, the PRC
vaccination center supervisor, said that the PRC Bakuna Bus gave the
organization the ability to reach more Mindanawons, from their
workplaces to their homes. The bus has already visited three sardine
factories and seven remote villages surrounding Zamboanga City.
Meanwhile, the PRC Zamboanga COVID-19 vaccination center has
administered more than 49,000 doses as of June 2022. The PRC and the
ICRC have proven to be reliable partners to the local government of
Zamboanga in its vaccination drive.
“The PRC Bakuna Bus gave
us much mobility to reach people who struggle to leave their
far-flung communities or work places to get vaccinated,” she says.
At the core of the PRC
Bakuna Bus is an enthusiastic cadre of volunteers who work with
synergy, from setting up the emergency tents to conducting the
pre-vaccination medical screenings. Vince Plaza, one of the
volunteers, said that he is proud of the work that the PRC does in
“Together with other
volunteers who take part in bringing life-saving vaccines to the
people, we find this task especially meaningful,” he says.
But there is still much to
be done. Joseline Fernandez, the chapter administrator of PRC
Zamboanga, said many residents are still hesitant to get the
vaccine. Countering misinformation remains a gargantuan task. But
the bus continues in its mission and will travel to Surigao del
Norte in August and Agusan del Norte in September.
“We have been tirelessly
educating and explaining that the vaccine is safe and effective. The
good news is that based on our experience, the presence of the
Bakuna Bus in the communities is enough to convince them to get the
shot,” she says.