"Remember the issue about someone dropping the ball?"
Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr, the vaccine czar, recently asked the public to stretch their patience some more because of further delays in the arrival of the vaccines. It now appears that the vaccines that we were told would arrive in January, which was later moved to February, will now start to get here in trickles by the middle or later part of March. That is if there will be no further delays. In the meantime, there are now three COVID-19 variants here in the country. One from the United Kingdom and two local variants originating from Cebu. For the information of the good Secretary, being patient is exactly what the people have been doing the past year.
Patience is a cherished Filipino trait. They have also been religiously following most government instructions with regard to the pandemic even if some of the instructions were downright ridiculous like insisting that partners staying in the same house must have a divider when riding a motorcycle. The question that now needs to be answered is why some of our neighbors have been able to procure some vaccines and have started vaccinating while we are still waiting.
There needs to be an explanation considering that in the first months of the pandemic, the President was already talking about buying vaccines to deliver us all to the promised land. I remember him saying on TV that we have to be patient, follow all health protocols, avoid getting infected – until the vaccines come. But instead of our government trying to find ways to start negotiating with the vaccine developers at the earliest possible time, the President lambasted western countries and the vaccine developers for their greed. This is true – but hardly an auspicious way to start the ball rolling. The Presidents’ rants somehow delayed the start of any negotiations because he had to cool down first.
There was also the problem of funding sources for the vaccines and the many debates that went on. Considering that a national emergency had already been declared because of the pandemic, funds should not have been a major stumbling block since about P40 billion in Bayanihan funds remained unused. With the government betting all its marbles on the vaccines to bring us back to any semblance of normality, it would seem that we took a lot of time to get moving on the vaccine front. By the time we started serious efforts to buy the vaccines, there were already many countries ahead of us. And as we have all read in the papers, the effort has not been very efficient because of the differences of opinion that existed within the IATF.
Remember the issue about someone dropping the ball? I also wonder whether our diplomats assigned to the countries abroad where vaccines are being developed had any role to play or whether everything was handled from here. Planning always involves assumptions and answering the many what ifs. There appears to be some failure in this area because many of the snafus being mentioned now were not anticipated.
So, when exactly will any of the vaccines ordered start arriving? If the reports are right, only the Sinovac vaccine has more or less a firm date of arrival before the end of this month. Trouble is, the Emergency Use Authorization given by the Food and Drug Administration is limited. Well, I guess there is nothing else to do except to wait and pray as Senator Franklin Drilon said in an interview or practice some more.
It is hard to pass judgement on how our government has responded to the pandemic and I will not. But let me cite the Global COVID Index. According to that report, we are ranked 79th out of 98 countries around the world that were studied. Here are the ranks of some of our neighbors; Vietnam is number 2 behind New Zealand. Thailand is 10th while Malaysia is 16th. Myanmar is 24th while Singapore, Indonesia and India are 13th, 85th and 86th respectively. If it is any consolation to us, the United States is 94th. We are certainly not the last but our grade of about 30 out of 100 is not exactly a sterling performance.
Because of the new variants now upon us, the need for the vaccines cannot be overemphasized. As we all know, vaccination according to experts is one of the best ways of getting ahead of the virus. Failure in this area will mean dire consequences especially to our vulnerable population. Now, we have received confirmation that some high-ranking government officials were vaccinated last year. That is leadership by example for you. And weeks after the entry of the UK variant, the DOH cannot yet categorically say whether there is already community transmission.