"Why didn't they think of that?"
When serious problems beset groups of people, whether they be associations, business enterprises, or even countries, people always urge their leaders to “think out of the box,” or devise unorthodox methods to get out of the rut that the group has fallen in.
Take the case of the Coronavirus 2019 disaster that is still doing havoc on the whole world.
When the virus that originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, landed in this Pearl of the Orient, the people looked up to the government for relief.
Government leaders both those in the health and the law enforcement sectors adopted the tried-and-tested method of controlling a rapidly spreading virus—lockdowns and severe restrictions on the movement of the people.
That is called thinking inside the box.
A scramble for a vaccine to make people resistant to the virus ensued and Pfizer, yes that company that developed Viagra came in first in the dead heat that saw Moderna, the pioneer in messenger RNA technology, coming second.
Thus Pfizer became the butt of jokes at the time with wags saying: “I will trust the vaccine of a company that can resurrect the dead.”
As soon as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines passed Phase 3 clinical trials, the Israeli prime minister contacted both companies and bought in advance, at double the price, enough doses to inoculate all citizens of Israel. He contracted vaccines that are not yet in the market and in the process beat the whole world in acquiring the doses needed by all his people.
Israel got the vaccines in November 2020.
A few days ago, news came out that practically all COVID-19-driven restrictions have been lifted in the land of God’s Chosen People and herd immunity is about to be achieved.
When asked about his unorthodox approach to the purchase of the vaccines, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that whatever extra amount paid for the vaccine was only equal to the losses to be caused by a few days of lockdown.
Many people immediately praised Netanyahu to high heavens as they heaped invectives on Filipino government officials asking: “Bakit hindi nila naisip iyon?”
The answer is no Filipino official, even if he or she thought of the scheme will do it for fear of getting imprisoned. He can not think out of the box because he is mandated by the law to stay in the box.
Procure vaccines at double the price? Without public bidding? Without programmed funds? Make advance payments?
Any lawyer will tell you that doing such will be a shortcut to Muntinlupa.
If the Israel prime minister did that as a Philippine official, he will be hounded by a battery of cases ranging from violation of the anti-graft law to the Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Employees to the Procurement Law and other laws governing government purchases.
In addition to the expected cases to be filed at the Ombudsman, the poor official will also be investigated by the House of Representatives and the Senate, “in aid of legislation,” where he will surely be subjected to verbal abuse by the honorable legislators who enjoy bullying hapless public officials “in aid of publicity” to regale the constituents at home. People always enjoy the spectacle of government officials being bullied by legislators who enjoy immunity.
In addition, he will be subjected by the mainstream and social media to such criticism that even his closest relatives and friends may start hating him.
So there, all you out there who think that the Israel experience can be done here. It just can not be done.
The same situation goes with that drug Ivermectin.
Ivermectin is an old drug that was initially developed to cure river blindness that is caused by a species of roundworms. It is endemic in certain parts of South America and Africa. That species of roundworms is the second cause of blindness in the world. The first is trachoma.
Researchers observed that people treated with Ivermectin were resistant to virus-caused diseases like flu and common cold and concluded that the drug has anti-viral properties.
The World has turned many times since that time and Ivermectin has mutated into a drug used more commonly against parasites in household pets and as a topical preparation for human head lice and scabies.
When news spread worldwide on the “effectiveness” of Ivermectin, some prominent Filipinos joined the chorus by saying they used the drug as a prophylaxis against COVID-19.
But, not so fast, the Department of Health and its Food and Drug Administration said. These agencies said that Ivermectin is not licensed for oral use by humans in the Philippines.
The FDA wants to subject it to testing as if it were a new drug. Clinical testing of new drugs takes years. So if the FDA were to be followed, the COVID-19 pandemic may be long over with thousands of fatalities in its wake before ivemectin is licensed in the Philippines.
Note that Ivermectin was formulated in 1975 and distributed for mass use in 1981. It took six years of clinical trials for it to be licensed.
Reports said that it has been licensed in the United States as a medicine for COVID-19.
Health and FDA officials said “the law” prevents the use of the drug without regulatory approval that they will not issue unless testing was done and proved successful.
They too are inside the box.
Nonnie Pelayo was the news editor of Today newspaper and later the BusinessMirror.