One and seventeen


    ‘…some wise guy has pointed out that if the Philippines can only vaccinate 1 million citizens a year, and herd immunity requires vaccinating 70% of the population, then it will take 70 years to accomplish this in the Philippines!’

    IT’S been one month since Joe Biden took his oath as President of the United States, with 47 to go. It is 17 months before Rodrigo Duterte steps down as President of the Philippines after serving out his single six-year term.

    Americans are waiting for the realization of the campaign promises of Biden; Filipinos are realizing that many of the promises of Duterte will apparently require waiting some more.

    For Biden, priority number one is getting at least 100 million Americans – one third of the current US population – vaccinated in his first 100 days in office. That’s a little over three months, or some time by the end of April. Vaccinating 100 million Americans will not bring the US anywhere close to herd immunity, which requires getting 70% of the population vaccinated; but it will be a major achievement of an administration determined to undo the policy mistakes committed by its predecessor, mistakes that could have contributed to the over 500,000 deaths over the last 12 months that are attributable to the virus.

    For Duterte, the primordial issue is getting the vaccines. For various reasons, the government has taken a long time to issue some form of indemnity insurance or guarantee that the vaccine makers have been asking for as part of their requirement prior to supplying their products that have received emergency use authorization or EUA. The indemnity insurance is meant to protect the pharmaceutical companies from crippling lawsuits that could arise should the vaccines cause serious side effects. This requirement is not being asked only of the Philippines but of other countries as well, though the brouhaha surrounding the Dengvaxia vaccine (including allegations that it caused death and other serious side effects on some of those to whom the shot was administered) have just made vaccine makers doubly wary of the Philippines. Especially now that national elections are again just around the corner. Any vaccine disaster that happens prior to May 2022 can easily be hung around the neck of the administration slate and could be a political “kiss of death” at the polls.

    In the United States and the Philippines there is a significant segment of the population that is wary of being inoculated. Some Americans insist that it is their “right” under the Constitution to refuse to take the two shots and that is true, because every American also has a right to die. But that’s the reason why Biden and so many other high-ranking government officials have very publicly taken their shots, hoping that the “conscientious objectors” who are merely afraid of being injected would be somewhat appeased and agree to be shot. (So to speak.)

    In the Philippines there is also some wariness about getting shot, in part because people understand that an “emergency use authorization” means that the vaccine has not undergone the regular, full course of testing which in turn may mean that down the line some problems might arise among those who have taken it. But hesitation also comes from a widespread distrust of the Chinese made vaccines which the Philippine government seeks to distribute to the general populace starting March. The situation wasn’t helped any by the flip-flopping of the President on the issue of whether he was going to allow himself to be shot and whether he would have it done in public. His initial refusals did not help create an air of confidence in the vaccination campaign.

    As for the slow conduct of the rollout (because what is there to roll out if you don’t have supply to speak of?) some wise guy has pointed out that if the Philippines can only vaccinate 1 million citizens a year, and herd immunity requires vaccinating 70% of the population, then it will take 70 years to accomplish this in the Philippines! Of course, this is too negative; my more optimistic estimate is 35 years.

    So there. Two peoples waiting. One for promises made to see if they are kept; the other to see what is being kept in lieu of promises made.

    One month of 48 is over for Biden, while 17 months is all that is left of Duterte’s 72.
    If only I could move time forward!


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here