"The successful administration of the vaccines is key to the full reopening of the economy."
Filipinos will welcome the new year, or the year of the vaccine, with much hope and relief after a disastrous 2020 that saw many lives, jobs and livelihoods lost because of the once-in-a-century pandemic.
Year 2021 should be a welcome respite from the COVID-19 disaster that forever changed the way Filipinos live and left millions separated from their loved ones in the provinces. There is much hope to look for in 2021, but pending the arrival of vaccines, the Philippines is not out of the woods yet.
This means Filipinos and the rest of the world have no reason to lower their guard yet. Jabs from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca, China’s Sinopharm and Russia’s Sputnik V will not be readily available until the second quarter of the year at the earliest.
The successful testing and approval process of vaccines take quite some time. The shipment period is another consideration because some of the vaccines require delicate handling. Eventually distributing the vaccines and inoculating the Filipino population will also be a big challenge.
For one, the Philippines has a poor immunization record. Childhood immunization coverage, alone, has dropped in recent years from 87 per cent in 2014 to 68 per cent in 2019.
The World Health Organization has noted the Philippines’ persistent low immunization coverage over the past few years. The first dose of measles vaccine, according to the WHO, had a coverage of above 80 percent in 2008 and decreased to below 70 percent in 2017. The body estimates that some 2.6 million Filipino children under the age of 5 years are not protected from measles.
The Philippines hopefully will address the challenges in the local healthcare sector after the Department of Health received a big boost from the 2021 budget. The pandemic has highlighted the critical gaps in the sector.
The vaccines against COVID-19, meanwhile, will test the resolve of the government to do away with distribution red tape that could imperil the health of the nation. The successful administration of the vaccines is key to the full reopening of the economy.