THE biggest question today is “will life return to normal the soonest as the biggest vaccination campaign in world history rolls out?” With the rate the vaccination program is running in the Philippines, many doubt that normalcy will come back within the next three years.
I think Senator Ping Lacson was correct with his math. The vaccination rate here as reported by Bloomberg last week was at an average of 25,865 doses per day. If this becomes the yearly rate, it will take more than 10 years to vaccinate 75% of our population with a two-dose vaccine.
In most countries, it would take at least 70% for the population to be vaccinated before a return to normalcy. But they are doing it faster, contrary to the public statements being made by many spokespersons that the government is doing an “excellent” job.
For example in the U.S., more people were injected with one dose than those who tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of their vaccination rollout. As of last week, the data by Bloomberg showed about 392 million doses were already delivered to 128 countries, at a rate of 9.50 million jabs a day.
With that, it would still take years to reach a significant level of global immunity, even while new and more effective vaccines will come within the next five years or so. COVID-19 cases from new mutations will still be high so that minimum health practices such as wearing masks will have to be observed.
Since the pandemic will not disappear the soonest leading to more localized quarantines and lockdowns, communities have no choice but to insist on doing normal activities such as farm work, food production, trading, and almost all economic activities, travel, and tourism, including face to face classes.
While the best vaccines were reported to be 95% effective, health authorities believe that the virus would still be transmitted and spread even after these are injected into people’s arms, since it takes around two weeks after vaccination to build immunity against the virus.
Health scientists say there is no proof that Covid-19 vaccines can completely stop people from being infected which makes it difficult for countries to reach herd immunity, but while immunity from vaccines may not last for a longer period, vaccinating people quickly will end the disease.
The revelations from health officials in other countries make us wonder why our officials here have to wait for the public to panic and ask so many questions before giving them answers. If not for what they read in socmed and newspapers, all we hear are denials.
It is happening. People in Europe and some parts of the world are still testing positive after inoculation. At least 13 EU countries paused their use of the AstraZeneca vaccine while others said they are waiting for results of an investigation into reports of blood clotting after injections on some people.
In another report, people died after receiving coronavirus vaccinations as a result of pre-existing conditions or other infections. This forced a few EU countries to suspend a batch of AstraZeneca vaccine as a precaution while awaiting investigation results into a connection between the deaths and the vaccinations.
By simply imagining the task, delivering billions of vaccines to stop the pandemic is a logistical challenge that is why many third world countries are now suffering from uneven access to vaccines.
The Philippines received a trickle of donated vaccines and a few additional millions more that was bought is coming, but those will just be enough for our health workers.
That is exactly the reason why Malacanang is very thankful for China’s Sinovac donations of limited quantity because, without that, we could have not started vaccinating our health workers.
This is making officials in Malacanang nervous, including us down here. At least seven vaccines are now available in limited quantities for public use for all countries. Although, not one brand of these vaccines is enough to vaccinate a global population of 7.5 billion.
No matter what brand, they bring us to hope to reach an end to a disease that has killed millions of lives worldwide. But what happens to the vaccination rollout if the next batch does not arrive? Surely, infections will rise. And we will again lockdown.
In one of his interviews on TV, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said imposing new travel restrictions is seen as the best way to prevent the entry of new variants in the country.
I tried to observe the way he answered questions and saw that he was not as confident as he was before. I “feel” his situation. It is not easy to be a vaccine czar and be blamed for things that did not happen as planned.
I understand that to perform a balancing act between controlling tourism or the movement of people and health in order not to overwhelm hospital facilities is not easy. This, as we expect new COVID-19 cases to spike to 8,000 in a day by the end of March.
DOH officials attribute the spike to the public’s non-compliance to health protocols but a research group said the presence of new and more transmissible variants may be partly to blame assuming health protocols are followed.
With all the worries and noticeable distress, Secretary Galvez asked the public to stretch their patience some more because of further delays in the arrival of the vaccines.
But even without him telling us, patience has been with the public since the start of lockdowns in March last year, and have been following LGU instructions about cross-border travel, acquiring health certificates and passes.
Our implementers in Malacanang need not put a little blame on the public when they too have faltered in their actions. For example, they tell the public to avoid unnecessary trips outside their houses but encourage them to become tourists at the same time.
While the public watched officials display differences of opinion by debating on what to allow and prohibit during the health crisis, many countries were already ahead of us in terms of planning on how to procure the vaccines. Time and effort were wasted while the people waited, watched, and were denied chapters of their lives.