Vaccination road map in 2021

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    ‘As it is, this road map has already been breached even before it was given the opportunity to be implemented.’

    MANY Filipinos heaved a sigh of relief as the year 2020 came to a close, with the last three quarters of that year punishing not just the nation but also the rest of the world with a noxious coronavirus that caused a catastrophic pandemic.

    The epidemic has not waned in its virulence, although the country’s health care system has prevailed over the initial shock, and important lessons on cooperation, preparedness and coordination were painfully learned. This resulted in a decrease in the number of new COVID-19 cases and increase in recoveries, but just the same this public health problem will extend to a good part of 2021 as the government rollout of the vaccine has not even started.

    Starting the year right with optimism, President Duterte rallied all Filipinos in his New Year message that 2021 is a time for new beginnings and a time to be hopeful. He stressed that now, we march on to a new year wiser, stronger and more prepared for the challenges ahead.

    The President affirmed, “Let our grateful hearts guide and inspire us to always do good and make a difference in the world. I am confident that all of us will see brighter days ahead because we believe in the indomitable spirit of the Filipino.”

    It warms the heart to hear the leader of the nation verbalize these reassurances, but more than the affirmations of hope, the nation needs concrete action rather than promises and plans on how to finally win against the epidemic.

    Only in achieving victory over COVID-19 can we fully recover from the economic downturn this public health challenge had inflicted on the people. This level of confidence in the government may be achieved, even this early when not a single COVID-19 vaccine has received approval of the Food and Drug Administration, by credible affirmations that when these safe and efficacious vaccines do arrive, the government will follow its own publicized National Vaccination Road Map that details the priority order of vaccine recipients.

    As it is, this road map has already been breached even before it was given the opportunity to be implemented. This was when the first batch of vaccines that arrived in the Philippines – illegally smuggled from China at that according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana – were injected to close-in security personnel of President Duterte and one Cabinet member.

    This act violates a number of laws, medical procedures and basic rules of logic, for the Presidential Security Group is gambling on the efficacy of a vaccine that did not pass government experts at FDA. This means it could do more harm than good to its recipients, and to the President, ultimately. The objective of securing the life and health of President Duterte will be jeopardized by such shortcut, aside from opening the Palace to criticisms about favoritism and entitlements.

    The Armed Forces, the NBI and the Senate are all itching to conduct probes on the controversial inoculation of PSG soldiers, but because Palace officials are the ones involved, there is serious reason to doubt if anything can come out of these initiatives.