“Like our resilient spirit, public programs and services should be pandemic- and disaster-ready.”
2021 is another pandemic year. This year, however, we are lucky to have finally received the much-awaited vaccines against COVID-19. But we all know that this is not our end-all be-all. Still, the vaccines made a huge difference in how we live amidst the pandemic.
Vaccines helped lower fatality and infection rates worldwide. Locally, we have seen how the number of new cases decreased after the successful national vaccination drive of the government. Hence, as we welcome the new year, our vaccination efforts should be strengthened. Booster shots have already become available. As the year ends, I am hopeful that many people will get inoculated in order to achieve our much-needed herd immunity.
This is not the first and will not be the last time that a pandemic may happen. We have heard of the Spanish flu in 1918 which, according to the US CDC, infected 500 million people in the world. The Spanish flu pandemic lasted until 1919, with a few subsequent outbreaks here and there. People either died or developed immunity from the disease. It was only years later when scientists and doctors were able to study and develop vaccines against influenza.
Now, we are lucky that scientists and pharmaceutical companies were able to develop vaccines in less than a year’s time. From our experience, however, we have seen how a viral illness may affect the entire world regardless of how advanced science and technology is.
We should learn our lesson here. As we enjoy innovations in technology, we should also push for the corresponding advancement of our health care system, particularly in epidemiological surveillance, disease prevention, and pandemic preparedness and response. The year 2021 also marked the lowest increase in our population in the past 75 years, with only a 0.3 percent projected natural increase. If at all, this demonstrates the inclination of Filipinos to delay having children due to the various uncertainties posed by the pandemic.
While we slowly return to pre-pandemic normal, we must not forget the identified gaps and lapses in our current health programs. With this, I urge the national government to systematically address the issues that hamper delivery of health care services in various parts of the country and increase support to our health care workers. We need long-term strategies and sustainable programs from the national down to the grassroots level in order to control, manage, and prevent disease outbreaks. The devolution of more programs to the local government units requires continuous guidance and support from the national government in order to effectively achieve national objectives.
Like our resilient spirit, public programs and services should be pandemic- and disaster-ready. It is high time that we improve our crisis preparedness in order to reduce not only economic losses but also the loss of lives. This entails a cohesive and coordinated national and local governments.
The coming year will be another crucial year in terms of national recovery. It is also an election year. Hence, I urge the public to be more circumspect in choosing and electing our next leaders. As I have said before, the next leaders should be capable of uniting the government and the entire country. As we end the year, I am hopeful that 2022 will not be “2020 too.” Together, we will recover.