By Lito Banayo | Manila Standard
"As always, honesty and transparency are key."
“Confused” and “confusing” are the simplest ways to describe what is transpiring insofar as the roll-out of the anti-Covid 19 vaccines is concerned.
The Department of Health, the vaccine czar, the presidential spokesman, all seem to be saying different things. The senators dispute their pronouncements in hearings before the Committee of the Whole.
Who are we to believe? Trust is the most important element insofar as vaccinating millions of Filipinos is concerned.
Remember Dengvaxia. The confusing statements and the tit-for-tat between DOH officials past and present and the accusations coming from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) which curiously has its own “forensics expert” resulted in a bad name for vaccines. Thus, up to now, many parents refuse to have their children immunized from diseases other than dengue for which the once-highly credible Sanofi-Pasteur of France developed the controversial Dengvaxia.
Surveys show a fear of the unknown. One would expect that our people, who have been primed into thinking that salvation from the pandemic is just around the corner with the discovery and development of vaccines, should be more welcoming of mass vaccination drives. Yet clearly, the hangover from the Dengvaxia scare is still a hex upon efforts of government functionaries assigned to the earliest possible roll-out of acceptable, credible vaccines.
And then there are the still-prevalent colonial mentality-dominated mindsets preferring “Made in USA” versus “Made in China,” not to mention sputniks from Russia.
Truth be told, with the rush toward the development of vaccines to counter the worst health pandemic in modern history, efficacies will vary. Worse, as earlier written by this and many other writers, accessibility and affordability will vary. Long have we known that rich countries have advanced monies for research and development, and would naturally insist on having first crack at the products of their funded research. That is to be expected.
Poorer countries and those who always act late, will have to fall in line. “Nga-nga” as street lingo derides. Even the World Health Organization’s Covax facility intended to ensure accessibility even to the marginalized countries has little assuaged public confidence.
We do not even have the needed cold chain facilities to ensure the temperature stability of the vaccines both in storage and in transit from island to island. As we write, we read that Mayor Isko Moreno of Manila has jumped the gun on other cities by instantly procuring cold storage units in preparation for the vaccine delivery. The young mayor deserves congratulations for his quick action.
One need not just visit the Food Terminal Inc. (FTI) in Taguig City, and see more than a dozen forty-foot cold storage plug and play containers, some donated by MECO upon the behest of the President and then SAP, now Sen. Bong Go, to demonstrate the need for easily available food cold chain facilities. Then, DA’s Sec. Willy Dar, knowing the importance of a viable cold chain, wisely ordered more.
The cold storage units which we can use for the vaccines can later be utilized for food, whether meat or poultry, seafood or fruits and vegetables, with a little tweaking of the temperature requirements accordingly.
Cold chain technology has improved considerably from the time when expensive power-consuming rotary fans churned freon-activated coolants through copper tubing to generate ideal storage temperatures. But our cold chain facilities all over the country are few and far between, in just a few urban centers, owned at that by private enterprises which to date use mostly obsolete technology.
But back to vaccine availability and affordability. Conflicting statements have been issued by different countries attesting to the efficacy, or lack of it, of several brands. Brazil says Sinovac is half as effective; Pfizer’s 95% efficacious (or so they tout) has caused deaths in Norway, or so reports go. Here there has been brouhaha about a Chinese-made vaccine having been “pre-tested” upon the PSG and select functionaries, even as profiteers in Binondo already purvey vaccine shots at as high as 20 thousand per shot. What a country!
As always, honesty and transparency are key. Trust is a commodity so difficult to presume, especially when human lives are concerned, and personal choice is the ultimate determinant of health security.
Meanwhile, as Harry Roque reminds all: mask up; wash and sanitize hands; continue social distancing. And do not ever slack upon those preventive measures.
At a time when vaccines or the lack of it bedevils people’s minds, the political noise has slowly but surely began. The year 2020, annus horribilis that it has been, is over, and in three more weeks, the Lunar Year of the Ox begins. From said new beginning, it would only be seven months before election fever envelops the country towards choosing the successor of Rodrigo Roa Duterte as president of the country.
Right after the skirmishes on the speakership settled down, PDP-Laban adopted the Pacman as its new president, and the new Speaker a party vice-president. The opinion research companies have began measuring the relative popularity these early days of so-called presidentiables, whether through cellphones or face-to-face interviews wherever convenient.
Some surveys are credible; some raise eyebrows; some are downright fake; “table” surveys we call them, which means, drawn (or invented) in a table and not through scientific research designs and proper statistical sampling.
This writer has begun describing the so-called presidentiables, based on perceptions of who might run, namely: Ping Lacson, Manny Pacquiao, Cynthia Villar, Bongbong Marcos, and Grace Poe, which we run every Monday in our twice-weekly column. Soon to come will be the daughter Sara, the widow Leni, the assistant Bong Go, the Yorme, and even the mechanic RSA, as suggested by various business journalists, including the Standard’s very own Tony Lopez.
There may be more in the horizon, moist eyes waiting for the right timing. And in politics, trite though the saying goes, “timing is everything”.
Some say it is too early. Truth is, it is a bit late. Were it not for COVID and its resulting “lost year,” the political circus should have rolled into town as early as the middle of 2020. Remember, the deadline for filing candidacies for every moist eye is in October.