‘There shouldn’t be any VIPs in the vaccination line’
THE administration of President Duterte may be forgiven for its lackluster implementation of basic health protocols in the fight against COVID-19, such as loose lockdown borders, violations of social distancing, face masks and face shields use, partying and others. There was also much to be desired in the matter of contact tracing and virus testing, the reason we are experiencing a second wave of infections today.
It should be incumbent upon the government, therefore, to learn its lessons and set aright the shortcomings of the first year of the pandemic. This pivot to a better strategy in the war against the novel coronavirus 2019 should be most felt in the present stage of vaccination.
President Duterte is angry that several mayors and celebrities have jumped the vaccination line and got the jab ahead of their turn. The authorities have yet to finish the inoculation of some 1.7 million healthcare frontliners, which began last March 1.
The Chief Executive particularly mentioned the following mayors as getting the shots along with the medical workers in their localities. They are Alfred Romualdez of Tacloban City, Leyte; Mayor Dibu Tuan of T’boli, South Cotabato; Mayor Sulpicio Villalobos of Sto. Niño, South Cotabato; Mayor Noel Rosal of Legazpi City, Albay; and Abraham Ibba of Bataraza, Palawan.
The President talked about a “child of an actor” who also got the jab in Parañaque, apparently referring to Mark Anthony Fernandez, son of actress Alma Moreno and the late actor Rudy Fernandez, who was interviewed by reporters and admitted that he received the AstraZeneca jab in Parañaque City. We remember Mark Anthony because the last time he was in the news, he was arrested, tried and convicted of marijuana possession in Angeles City, where he spent some time in jail.
It could be that the mayors, thinking that the health workers in the line are just their subordinates, can just cut in and receive the jab. They did not know, or fail to acknowledge, that the AstraZeneca vaccines were donated by the COVAX Facility of the World Health Organization with the strict requirement that healthcare workers should have priority. As Duterte later explained, the WHO can withhold the donation if the list of priority recipients submitted by the government is violated.
In his remarks, Duterte acknowledged that the mayors may have decided to get vaccinated to set an example to their constituents and provide an actual proof that the vaccine is safe. While this is a valid alibi, still the President was pissed off enough to order an investigation by the Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and file charges with the Ombudsman if evidence warrants.
Duterte said it is important that the Philippines strictly follow the vaccination priority list to ensure the continued support of the World Health Organization. We agree, not just because it is the country’s commitment to the WHO, a respected United Nations body, but also because it is the right thing to do. There shouldn’t be any VIPs in the vaccination line.