Fantasy world

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - March 12, 2021 - 12:00am

The Palace spokesman rated the Duterte  administration’s performance managing COVID as excellent. He wasn’t joking. He said that with a straight face. Never mind that COVID cases are alarmingly on the rise again, threatening any opening up of the economy.

Living in a fantasy world is nothing new. Past tenants of Malacanang have indulged in it too, and we who report the news just roll our eyes.

But we can’t afford having our leaders living in a fantasy world in the time of COVID. People are getting sick and even dying in our real world. The question of the moment is, where are the vaccines?

The National Vaccine Operations Center reported that at least 128 vaccinees from the PGH, 85 from Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital (TALA), 20 from the Lung Center of the Philippines, 110 from the Philippine National Police General Hospital, 353 from Veterans Memorial Medical Center, and 60 from Victoriano Luna Medical Center received the CoronaVac doses on the first day of the rollout. That’s less than a thousand.

How long would it take them to vaccinate half of our population? And remember we need two doses and we must vaccinate more than half our population to get herd immunity.

Well, according to Vince Dizon, who is part of the COVID response team, their goal is to vaccinate 50 million people this year.

“To achieve that target we need to, for the remainder of the year - specially when the bulk of the vaccines comes in, give roughly about 250,000 to 300,000 per day,” Dizon told ANC’s Headstart. He said it is difficult now because supplies are just trickling in.

Fantastic. I wonder if Vince honestly believes they can deliver, based on the government’s track record so far. For starters, where is the grand plan? Have they identified the people who will stick the needle in people’s arms? Are they training them? Are we ready with other supplies needed?

Government has so far received about one million doses of vaccines for its health workers. About 600,000 were from China and 500,000 from Covax (AstraZeneca). Covax is a global access initiative launched by the WHO to ensure vaccine availability to the world’s most vulnerable.

Vaccines aside, our urgent problem today is the rising number of people getting sick of COVID once more.

And don’t even say this is a normal second wave. The WHO representative here made it clear that this is not a second wave because that requires a complete flattening of the curve. That’s something we have not yet accomplished.

What we have now is a steep spike in a long wave we have had since the pandemic’s start a year ago.

DOH has urged hospitals to allocate more beds dedicated for COVID-19 patients as the country is again seeing a sharp rise in new cases.

DOH Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, in an interview with CNN Philippines on Wednesday, March 10, said that the rise in cases is kind of “alarming because this is almost a repeat of what happened in August 2020.”

A doctor was quoted in the media saying that they used to count individual cases. Now they are seeing entire families going for consultation.

Patients in emergency rooms are reportedly piling up as hospitals cannot admit those with severe symptoms as fast as they come in. Some hospitals are reportedly again using tents to handle consultations and have opened additional wards for COVID-19.

Hospital administrators are worried.

“It’s not just a question of beds, but having healthcare workers—nurses and doctors—to attend to those beds. So even if we open floors, we can’t admit ER patients because no one will attend to them. So, they are stuck in the emergency department.”

Professionals in the healthcare industry are blaming the administration’s lack of foresight. The winning strategy is simple enough: Test. Treat. Trace. But we have been late on all three and our implementation has been lackluster.

Writing for the hospital’s staff, Medical City’s chairman Eckie Gonzales made the following observations:

“Underwhelming national testing capacity until mid-June 2020. Not enough rooms at the inn till mid-August.  Delayed tracing ramp-up till eight months after pandemic onset.

“The most severe lockdown strategy in Asia and counting.

“Inexplicable rejection of the initial Pfizer vaccine offer with multilateral funding, which went to Singapore.  Confused National Government instructions that diminished private sector initiative to negotiate for limited supplies.

“Last to get vaccinated in Asia.  (In the meantime, the US has jabbed the equivalent of three-quarters of our population in three months) …

“And now we have four months to logistically prepare for – hopefully – a deluge of vaccines in the second half of the year so we can inoculate maybe half our 70 million adult population - or stretching the case, all of it…

“Gutsy Indonesia launched in February with Sinovac, seeking to inoculate 181 million in 15 months. They have an archipelago of 17,000 versus our 7,000 islands, a population 2.5x ours.  Why not? Why wait till 2023 to finish the process?

“In the meantime, with the infectious South African, UK, and Brazilian variants here and counting, we need PhilHealth to pay its outstanding bills and the strategic PPE reserve to be replenished for hospitals to have the financial resources to ramp up treatment capacity again. Unfortunately, we don’t see a PhilHealth recap on the horizon yet…

“Don’t forget to stock up as well on the needles and syringes necessary for the next vaccination step.  Prices are rising, supply is short…”

You might say claiming the Duterte administration’s performance excellent is just PR. Maybe so. I only hope the Palace spokesman and his principal do not honestly believe they did well… or our country is really screwed.



Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter@boochanco

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