"One thing is certain—we cannot wait for the “best vaccine,” and we just have to take whatever government and the private sector is making available to us."
This is not about the shoot-out in front of a fast-food outlet on Commonwealth Avenue between the QC police and PDEA agents, which the President has directed the NBI to investigate.
Neither is it about Ronald McDonald being the real culprit, as internet memes hilariously suggest, to sarcastically comment on the inexplicable shooting incident which only exposes the soft underbelly of the instruments of the law assigned to handle the President’s signature program against illegal drugs.
This is about who gets the first shots of the vaccines that have mercifully arrived, and since the first of March, have been distributed to various cities in the capital region and elsewhere.
Just as February ended, 600,000 doses of Coronavac by Sinovac arrived, with the President mismo welcoming the planeload along with the Chinese ambassador. Then on Thursday night, a KLM plane delivered close to 500,000 doses from the Covax facility of the WHO. These were flown in from Belgium, with the President again receiving these at Villamor.
As March started, the Sinovac vaccines were brought, first to our national hospital, the PGH, where Dr. Gap and medical frontliners volunteered to get the first shots. But days before Sinovac arrived, our very own Food and Drug Administration issued an EUA which specified that the Chinese vaccine was not advisable to be administered upon senior citizens AND medical front liners due to its lower efficacy (50.4%).
The day after, the DOH, under whose huge umbrella FDA as an agency is sheltered, caused a “clarification” by the FDA, which dutifully “corrected” its earlier caveat, insofar as medical workers were concerned. This was followed by a palace announcement that only medical front liners were to be “shot” first, aside from the vaccine czar, Sec. Carlito Galvez, and his co-czar, Sec. Vince Dizon.
Which did happen, except somehow, MMDA chairman Ben-hur Abalos, whose mother died of COVID-19 just several weeks before, also got the initial shots. No problem with that.
Examples had to be given, to demonstrate to the public and even medical workers hesitant to accept Sinovac, especially after the FDA said that it was not efficacious enough for high-risk front liners, not to worry and get shot.
Mayor Marcy Teodoro of Marikina wondered why LGU heads like himself were not allowed, considering that first, they were exposed to the public as often if not more; and second, that a skeptical public would rightly be assured if their elected officials led the vaccination. Bakit nga ba?
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno dutifully followed the DOH fiat and contented himself with witnessing the roll-out at PGH which is located in his city. But in Sta. Ana District Hospital the following day, which was built and is run by the local government, he had his vice-mayor, Dr. Honey Lacuna, get the shot in her arm. She was certifiably a front liner, by DOH definition.
And at the Veteran’s Memorial Medical Hospital, Rep. Helen Tan of Quezon’s fourth district, also a physician who chairs the health committee in the HoR, got a shot which was intended for her son, another medical practitioner in the same hospital. People wondered why her, but then, hey, she is a doctor. Whether or not she practices her profession actively or not is immaterial, because the DOH guidelines were quite hazy as they were, even contradictory to its own FDA’s earlier EUA pronouncement.
But then again, in Pasay City, a DILG Undersecretary, Jonathan Malaya, got his shot, well-publicized at that. His reason —we are also front liners. Otro razon—we should inspire the public to have confidence in vaccines. Especially Sinovac?
In the midst of the initial confusion and the conflicting statements, with someone in Octa Research now saying that Astra-Zeneca cannot deal with mutations of the coronavirus, from the original Wuhan to the UK variant, and then South Africa, and then Brazil, and also Hong Kong (is there no one else?), one thing is certain—we cannot wait for the “best vaccine,” and we just have to take whatever government and the private sector is making available to us.
Kung 50-percent protection, better than nothing. “Huwag nang choosy,” as our officials say.
No use crying about the what ifs. Long ago and several times have we and practically every other writer complained about the incompetence of DOH ranking officials which may have infected the lower rungs of its bureaucracy, and now with COVID-19 cases spiking up once more (3,439 last Saturday, and a little less on Friday!), we just need to protect our puny little bodies as quickly as possible.
After all, the PSG and other entitled mortals got another Chinese vaccine, Sinopharm as early as October of the previous year, and mukhang okay naman silang lahat, except one friend I mentioned in this space last week.
In wealthy Singapore however, they seem to be quite “choosy”.
Last December, Pfizer vaccines arrived, their transport minister receiving the shipment with much fanfare. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called the arrival a “welcome present we have been looking forward to.” In February, Moderna delivered the first batch of its mRNA vaccines, and Lee was mighty pleased as well.
But when Coronavac by Sinovac arrived March 2, only the Chinese Embassy in Singapore played up the event. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health said that the vaccine had not yet been authorized by its regulators and cannot be immediately used. An infectious disease expert even said that it was “unusual that the vaccines arrived before authorization.”
Choosy sila. Tayo, no choice.
That’s life, I guess. Just heed Yorme Isko, whose T-shirt is emblazoned with the words: “Vaccine Nation is the Solution.”