’No magic bullet for COVID-19’

WHO warns vaccines won’t solve crisis soon; PH sets P73 billion for virus cure

The World Health Organization has warned that vaccines will be no magic bullet for the coronavirus crisis as nations gear up for a massive rollout to tackle surging infections.

The warning coincided with the announcement Saturday that the government was ready to spend as much as P73 billion for the procurement of coronavirus vaccines to achieve “herd immunity,” the country’s budget chief said.

Meanwhile, Moscow on Saturday began vaccinating workers at high risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus at newly opened clinics across the city.

The WHO however warned against vaccine complacency on Friday (Saturday in Manila) and what it said was an erroneous belief that the COVID-19 crisis was over with jabs on the horizon.

In Manila, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said the country currently had P10 billion in standby funds for vaccine procurement under Bayanihan 2, and a P2.5 billion initial budget dedicated to vaccine procurement under the proposed national budget for 2021.

The P73 billion budget will be enough to vaccinate around 60 million Filipinos, Avisado said in a public press briefing

“The report from Finance chief Sonny Dominguez during our last meeting, he said the government’s ready to spend up to P73 billion to vaccinate more or less 60 million Filipinos, to attain herd immunity,” the Budget chief said.

The Food and Drug Administration said that it will have cleared a COVID-19 vaccine candidate for emergency use by January.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier issued an order allowing FDA emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccines and drugs.

Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo earlier said at least P140 billion was needed to obtain herd immunity, but Avisado assured that the government is finding other ways to fund the vaccine procurement, such as securing loans from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

Senator Christopher Go on Saturday dared vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to be the first ones to volunteer for the injection of a “safe” COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available in the country.

“I’m challenging Secretary Galvez, once available na po ‘yung safe na vaccine, ipapakita niya, along with Secretary Duque, sila po ang unang magpapaturok ng vaccine to encourage naman po,” Go said at the Laging Handa public briefing.

Go, also the Senate Committee on Health chair, made the statement as he said the poor and the vulnerable should be prioritized in the access and availability of COVID-19 vaccines. He said he observed that many Filipinos are still hesitant to have themselves vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights on Saturday cautioned the government on the threat of enforcers to use “yantok” or rattan stick in enforcing COVID-19 health protocols.

“Violence, even in its slightest suggestion, is not the best way to address the pandemic,” CHR spokesperson lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement.

Instead of the use of force or actions that may lead to humiliation and trauma, de Guia said “government should continue to employ information dissemination to make the people understand the hazards of going out in the midst of a pandemic, as well as implement programs guided by the sound advice of science and health professionals.”

She said the CHR recognizes the government efforts to effectively enforce health safety protocols to protect the public against the pandemic but “human rights and dignity must be respected at all times and situations.”

De Guia’s statement came in response to the pronouncement of a government task force on COVID-19 that law enforcers-- to be armed with yantok-- will be deployed to enforce health safeguards, such as physical distancing in public areas this coming holidays.

The CHR also reminded, “the pandemic is not a peace and order issue, but a public health concern. The public should also be equally reminded to follow these health protocols strictly.”

The Department of Health (DOH) on Saturday announced 1,733 new coronavirus disease infections, bringing the nationwide tally to 438,069.

The DOH also said that 133 cases have recovered as of Saturday, bringing the total to 399,582. Meanwhile, the death toll went up to 8,526 with 17 new fatalities.

Of the total cases, 6.8 percent or 29,961 cases remain active.

Davao City recorded the highest number of new cases with 162, followed by Quezon City (92), Benguet (80), Rizal (70), and Laguna (66).

In Moscow, health officials said they had opened 70 coronavirus vaccine centers in the Russian capital that would initially offer jabs for health, education and social workers.

“Citizens from the main risk groups who in connection with their professional activities come into contact with a large number of people can get vaccinated,” officials said.

Russia was one of the first countries to announce the development of a vaccine, Sputnik V -- dubbed after the Soviet-era satellite -- in August but before beginning final clinical trials.

It is currently in its third and final stage of clinical trials involving some 40,000 volunteers. 

Topics: World Health Organization , coronavirus crisis , Wendel Avisado , Sonny Dominguez
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