"We should continue calibrating our opening up."
The good news is about 85 percent of the country's frontline health care workers have been vaccinated. DoH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje, who chairs the National Vaccination Operations Center, (NVOC) reported that except for some barangay health workers in a number of provinces who have not been jabbed so far, the rest have taken their required doses.
As of May 25, Cabotaje noted that a total of 1,340,537 health care workers have received their first Covid 19 vaccine dose and that almost half of these or 580, 797 their second dose. In the case of the other priority sector, senior citizens, a total of 1,174,401 have been given their first dose and that some 10 percent of the group their second dose.
We should be able to ramp up the numbers within the next two months (June and July) as advised by Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez if we get a good part of the millions of doses in committed supply delivered within the period. The problem is no longer vaccination acceptability which plagued us and lingers due to the Dengvaxia fiasco but availability of supply as manufacturing continues to lag behind demand. That supply and demand disconnect will probably extend up to the end of the year or early next year which will definitely upend all our efforts to gain herd immunity at the shortest possible time.
Reports have it that despite continuing pleas from the WHO and global health advocates for "fair and responsible" sharing of vaccine supplies, the most developed Western countries have continued to hoard and unduly build their stockpiles at the expense of the poorer and less developed ones. These countries have become so unbelievably stingy to the point that even those which have been commercially committed by their manufacturers, Pfizer and Moderna in the case of the United States and Aztra-Seneca in UK, have been embargoed by the sitting administrations to "ensure" the vaccination of their peoples on the way to herd immunity. That means holding on to millions of doses which would have otherwise been injected to the arms of the recipient countries' health care workers.
The vaccine inequality, the troubling disconnect which has accompanied these developed countries' hypocritical stance has prompted no less than UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to emphatically remind one and all that the "war" against Covid 19 cannot and will not be won one country at a time. The world must move in sync as one and not leave anybody behind.
Fueling this "me-first" syndrome is the fact that India which is home to the "go to" manufacturers of reliable and affordable vaccines, has experienced the worst surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths globally which understably prompted it to buy all available supplies and ban the export of all upcoming supplies to take care of its citizens. More than this, the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer, Serum Institute of India, has had to cope with the breakdown of a number of its facilities and internal wranglings. The others like Bharat Tech cannot ramp up their production to take up the slack and even produce more given construction woes and, yes, availability of ingredients of the Covid 19 vaccines many of which come from the US and Europe.
This unfortunate turn of events will definitely slow down our own vaccine roll out program and should be addressed accordingly. We may need to mount a kind of diplomatic offensive to "creatively" secure our supplies through some other means. We are told, for example, that Hong Kong has jabbed almost all of its residents including the thousands of temporary workers and still has millions of doses on stockpile which may now be shared with other countries.
Given our long standing good relations and the presence of thousands of our citizens there, we can probably talk with the Hong Kong SAR authorities for us to get a share of the stockpiled vaccines. That will, of course, require us to talk with their bosses in Beijing which the administration should do even at the risk of getting another barrage of attacks from the usual suspects for its so-called "pro-Beijing" policies.
We have it on record as well that the Biden administration will soon release a good portion of its "vaccine hoard" as it has jabbed a majority of its citizens and will already reach herd immunity by July 4. We should move to secure part of that "hoard" soonest before we again drop the ball, so to speak, as what happened early on with that 20 million committed doses from Pfizer.
In the meantime, we should continue calibrating our opening up to ensure that whatever gains we may have achieved since last year and the latest surge two months ago will not go to waste. That includes ramping up our education, information and sourcing efforts to encourage the use of other measures apart from vaccines to stem the spread of COVID-19. Which is why the distribution of home care kits that includes ivermectin and other immune system-enhancing drugs and practices should be ramped up as well.