Oh Israel!

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

The first light at the end of this COVID tunnel is coming from Israel. According to The Washington Post, Israel is now partying like it’s 2019.

“With most adults now vaccinated against the coronavirus and restrictions falling away – including the lifting this week of outdoor mask requirements – Israelis are joyously resuming routines that were disrupted more than a year ago and providing a glimpse of what the future could hold for other countries.”

Oh, Israel! How did you guys do it? We are still in limbo. The best guess for us puts two more years of aimless wandering in the COVID desert.

Of course, it will be pointed out that Israel has only nine million people. Metro Manila is at least 12 million and the so-called NCR plus bubble is easily 15 million. The whole country is over 110 million.

Looks like our officials have a good excuse for being laggards in this battle against an invisible virus, but not good enough. Despite the very destructive politics of Israel, having had its fourth national election in two years, they knew who the enemy was. It was the COVID virus, not other Israelis.

According to The Washington Post, “the rate of new infections has plummeted – from a peak of almost 10,000 a day to about 140 – and the number of serious coronavirus cases in many hospitals is down to single digits.

“The emergency COVID-19 ward at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv resumed duty as a parking garage, and waiting rooms are suddenly flooded with non-COVID patients coming for long-deferred treatments.”

But Israeli health officials are quick to note that the pandemic is not over. They are worried about the variants. There is also the possibility of outbreaks in schools, where most students are too young to be vaccinated.

Still, Israel is showing what other nations can expect if they can keep on vaccinating.

“With almost 90 percent of the most vulnerable cohort – those 50 and older – fully inoculated, experts say hospital ICU units are now shielded from being overwhelmed, as almost happened earlier in the pandemic.”

Just two months ago, the spread of the disease stubbornly refused to slow. Vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine is making the difference for Israel.

Dr. Tony Leachon, who once advised IATF, however observed rightly that while “vaccines save lives, the success of Israel is anchored on leadership and governance, and agility in execution.”

According to Deutsche Welle, Israel was able to secure large quantities of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine because Israel agreed to pay double the price for each dose.

Israeli officials explained they agreed to pay extra per dose because they figured that in pure economic numbers, the total amount they overpaid was a miniscule fraction of what it costs to lockdown the country. This is not counting the extra medical costs of COVID and the incalculable price of losing a loved one.

Poor Filipinos. We don’t have leaders who think as clearly as the Israelis. We have red tape loving bureaucrats. So, we didn’t have enough vaccines early enough, and it seems we have the wrong one.

A successful vaccination rollout would be our country’s economic game changer. But as Capital Economics said, progress has been disappointing as only one percent of the population has been inoculated almost two months since the start of the program.

Israel launched one of the fastest rollouts in the world. According to The Washington Post, Israel delivered just under 10 million doses of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine regimen, reaching 4.98 million people or about 55 percent of its total population. An additional 400,000 Israelis have received one shot.

“If those who have been infected and then recovered are added, more than 60 percent of Israeli residents now have some level of protective antibodies. The virus is running short of vulnerable bodies to infect.”

Can you imagine if we were able to do that for Metro Manila? NCR’s population is comparable in number to Israel’s.

Yes, I am dreaming. DOH even forfeited those Pfizer doses our diplomats secured for us because Duque dropped the ball and made the Pfizer papers sleep on his desk for three months.

The Washington Post reports the Israelis found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine so good at protecting the elderly, who are especially vulnerable, that it has all but eliminated the risk that COVID-19 cases would collapse their critical care systems.

I attended a forum via Zoom on vaccines last week organized by the Foundation for Economic Freedom. I confirmed some of my worst fears about our situation.

On a personal level, I am now concerned that the Sinovac vaccine isn’t up to the job.

Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said it doesn’t have high protection rates. According to a BBC report, Mr. Gao explained that steps to “optimize” the vaccine process could include changing the number of doses and the length of time. He also suggested combining different vaccines.

So, I asked the vaccine expert at the forum how long will my Sinovac shots keep me safe from COVID? Can I get another vaccine brand when these other vaccines start arriving in July?

The short answer to both questions is they don’t know. The science isn’t there yet to say anything one way or another. These are all very new vaccines, less than a year in the real world. Scientists haven’t learned everything we need to know.

Is there no way of determining how much antibodies the Sinovac jabs gave me? And if the protection is not as good as hoped for, can I get booster shots from another brand?

Again, the science is not yet there to answer my questions.

I am supposed to get my second Sinovac jab in three weeks. Even after that, I have to assume I am still rather vulnerable and must continue to wear a mask and social distance.

Not being very sociable, my life didn’t change that much with the lockdown restrictions. I depend on Zoom and FaceTime.

But for everyone else, it looks like no freedom yet in the foreseeable future. Our government got us the wrong vaccine. So, unlike the Israelis, our economy is still sunk.



Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco


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