"It’s a mad, mad, mad world."
During the successful Philippine hosting of the Southeast Asian Games, the organizers nicely put out the slogan, “We win as one.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic invaded Philippine shores, and people were stuck in their homes, we prayed for deliverance from the deadly disease, and while hundreds then thousands were dying, while more tens of thousands cramped our limited health care capacity, we said “We heal as one.”
Now that the vaccines which were touted as the savior are already being administered in several countries, both the wealthy and some Third World countries, wouldn’t it be best for government functionaries, as well as the presidential spokesman, to please speak as one?
Early this year, we were assured that some 117,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine, supposedly with the highest efficacy thus far, would arrive on or before Valentine’s Day, and administered to frontline health workers immediately afterward. Days before the highly anticipated event, we were told, there were some hitches, but soon they would come. Likely because someone “dropped the ball” again, as the supposed 2020 negotiations came and went. Maybe this time because someone forgot there is a need for an indemnification agreement, which mercifully our Congress passed swiftly when apprised. Fingers are pointing to the Dengvaxia cases against Sanofi-Pasteur that Persida Acosta politicized, spooking the drug industry from dealing with our country without iron-clad warranties.
The week after, “manna” from China, the gift Foreign Minister Wang Yi promised in mid-January, was touted to be arriving. All 600,000 doses of Sinovac, of which a hundred thousand would be for the military, and the rest to be apportioned to major cities.
But then, our Food and Drug Administration came up with an emergency use authorization (EUA) early last week, which stated, quite clearly, that after thoroughly evaluating the gift from China, which later our government would buy in the millions, the said Sinovac should not be administered to senior citizens, but only to able-bodied persons aged 18 to 59 years. FDA likewise said the Coronavac of Sinovac should not be administered to medical and health care front liners who are exposed regularly to COVID-19 patients.
Why? Because our FDA evaluated Sinovac to be only 50% effective.
So, switching gears, our officials and our presidential spokesman said that we would give the free Sinovac shots to economic frontliners, such as farmers, fishermen, and transport workers. Fine. Except after the FDA announcement, economic frontliners felt they were being used as cannon fodder, guinea pigs, and dared the politicians to get the Sinovac injected into their system first.
Nonetheless, some local government officials like Yorme Isko of Manila, and even 59-year old borderline aged Sec. Carlito Galvez, the vaccine czar mismo, said they are willing to be inoculated. Good gesture. Leadership by example. Para nga naman mag-kumpiyansa ang tao. That was as of mid-week last.
But then after the 35th EDSA Day commemoration, change tune na naman. Pwede na raw sa medical front liners, for those willing to take the Sinovac. So what happened to FDA’s announcement three days before, its caveats as clear as clear could be?
In convoluted reasoning, FDA’s Dr. Eric Domingo “clarified” his earlier pronouncement, and our uber-competent health secretary chimed in, except that he would not take a jab, exempted as he is, by reason of age. Nakalusot.
But PGH health care front liners were wary, and worried. Again, “bakit kami?” “At bakit Sinovac?” The hospital in the heart of the nation’s capital is also considered the premier public hospital in the country, run by the best socially-conscious physicians from the University of the Philippines.
People now ask, just as they ask why there was that motorcade of sports cars egging an unwilling presidential daughter to run and succeed her father as president, even as not a single shot of vaccine had arrived in the benighted land, “Ano ba talaga, Kuya?”
So Manila’s Yorme stepped in to clarify, and said the Sinovac was only for those who want it, and others have the right to be “choosy.” And then he himself volunteered. Ah! the advantages of youth. At 46, he is within Dr. Domingo’s authorized recipient sector. And of course, Galvez’ co-czar (sounds like a maintenance drug senior citizens take daily), Vince Dizon, who must be a tad younger than the Yorme, likewise “safe” as far as age goes.
But no, the health department says, “only” medics and nurses, and orderlies in hospitals. No politicians. No officials. Since hindi pwede si Duque, hindi pwede lahat. Is he truly running for senator?
President Duterte, who will turn 75 in four weeks, is in the verboten age bracket, and therefore cannot take the vaccine. So no one among our “leader class” is authorized to inspire and give the public confidence to take the vaccines that surveys show they are hesitant to take, and are yet on wait and see mode.
What do you suppose ordinary folks now think? To Sino or not to Sino-vac?
All because of a failure to “speak as one.” Let alone act as one.
But during the weekend, we get a dose of “good” news. The Covax facility is bringing in 525,000 shots of Astra-Zeneca, arriving today after the Sinovac yesterday, thanks to the British Ambassador who helped hasten the delivery, much like the Queen’s cavalry charging “Sinitic” forces to the draw.
Meanwhile, Taiwan media front-paged news about an Indonesian nurse dying nine days after taking the Coronavac by Sinovac jab.
Now what will happen to the handful of healthcare workers and medical professionals who have agreed to take the Sinovac jab today and tomorrow? Will they change their mind and say, “teka muna”—we prefer Astra-Zeneca.
It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world, to copy from a Hollywood movie title which showed decades ago when I was still in short pants when neither Yorme nor Bong Go, Inday Sara or the Pacman were yet in this world.
There’s a sub-text to that movie title which I never got to see—“I wanna get out!”
I am being facetious. Truly.