EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - April 19, 2021 - 12:00am

They may be old and old school, members of a generation usually reluctant to embrace what the modern world has to offer. But in recent days, more and more senior citizens have agreed to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Even those in high society, who normally have access to the best medical care, are not taking their chances when it comes to the virus.

Some senior citizens who have taken their jabs are tycoons, businessmen and well-known individuals. They include Ayala chairman emeritus Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Carlos Araneta of LBC, Raul Concepcion of Concepcion Industries, Cesar Buenaventura, a director of many listed companies, broadcasting mogul Antonio Tuviera, celebrity chef Margarita Fores, 1973 Miss Universe Margie Moran, former Bureau of Internal Revenue commissioner Kim Henares and Figaro founder Chit Juan.

Some of them got their jabs in Makati City, lining up at the Forbes Pavilion inside Forbes Park and happily commending the local government led by Makati City Mayor Abby Binay for the efficient vaccine rollout.

Vaccine recipients took note of the safety protocols such as proper physical distancing measures and that the health workers were wearing complete PPEs.

In other cities, more and more seniors are also taking their vaccines. Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto announced that his mother Coney Reyes, a senior citizen, had been vaccinated.

“This morning, my mom was the 6,318th Pasigueño senior to get vaccinated,” Vico said on Saturday, noting that his mother waited for her turn and did not jump the line, another testament to the efficiency of the city’s vaccine roll-out.

He said over 24,000 residents have already been inoculated in the city.

Many on social media are also posting about the fast distribution of vaccines in Quezon City, making it especially easy and convenient for senior citizens.

One senior businessman shared with me that he received the Sinovac vaccine and did not feel any adverse reaction.

It’s good to know that many from the older generation are taking the vaccines. Early on, I’ve heard stories about seniors who were reluctant to take the jabs and ended up losing their turn. Some are afraid of the vaccines’ effects on them given their old age.

It’s easy to understand their hesitation. We are all anxious and uncertain because this whole pandemic is new to us and we know our body’s strengths and limitations more than anyone else.

But I hope that other senior citizens will also consider getting vaccinated if their doctors say this is what is best for them.

The benefits outweigh the risks, experts have said, and at a time when this tiny but deadly virus is still very much lurking around us, we need all the help – including modern medicine – than we can get.

The passing of a generation

The death toll in the Philippines due to COVID-19 has already climbed to at least 15,700 and majority of those who died are elderly, government data showed.

Around 34 percent or 5,338 people are those in their 70s and above, while 27 percent or roughly 4,239 people are those in their 60s.

That means 61 percent or 9,577 of the 15,700 who died are senior citizens.

Beyond the body count, these people are somebody’s parents or grandparents, husband, wife, a brother or sister, friend or simply a loved one.

Just the other day, my brother said many of his friends have already lost both parents to COVID-19.

“Ang dami ko ng kaibigan na naulila dahil sa COVID. (Many of my friends have already lost both their parents because of COVID-19),” he said.

Our elderly today belong to generations of Filipinos, who are the best and the brightest among us, as veteran journalist Tony Lopez said. “War heroes, great entrepreneurs, the best in our professional and managerial class, the builders of our nation...”

Lucio Tan tests positive for COVID-19

As I write this, there are many other senior citizens who are fighting the virus.

Taipan Lucio Tan, for instance, is in a hospital after being tested for COVID-19, but he is stable and recovering, says his daughter Vivienne Tan.

Like him, there are many others who are in the hospital because of the virus, senior or not. I fervently hope they all recover and I also wish to wake up to the day this pandemic is finally over and not one more person is sick of the virus.

But the government needs to speed up the vaccine rollout in the country because, as it is now, this administration’s pandemic response has been slow, disorganized, and inefficient. Against this backdrop, the number of cases, now at more than 900,000 and the death toll already above the 15,000-mark, continue to climb.

One death is already one death too many, whatever age, class or gender, but the deaths of today’s elderly are especially alarming because we are seeing the early passing of a generation of Filipinos who still have so much more to contribute to making this nation great again and who are no doubt, among the greatest of our race.



Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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