Forging ahead blindly

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak - The Philippine Star

Does taking away the right to choose seem like a bad idea? In most instances – yes. But that’s what the government is currently proposing with the “brand agnostic” vaccine policy they are implementing, which allows vaccination sites to not disclose the vaccine brand they will be administering ahead of time. This way, they can avoid people selecting one site over the other and potentially overcrowding places offering a certain brand.

Ironically, several months ago I would have thought this was a violation of the people’s right to know and decide on what type of vaccine they were getting. At this point, however, with the pandemic raging on and more and more people suffering, I do have to admit there may be some merit in forging ahead this way to ensure that more people get vaccinated sooner.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also expressed its support for the vaccine blind policy if it would help the program accelerate at a faster clip. They have been staunch supporters of vaccination and are constantly looking for ways to get rollout programs – especially in developing nations moving faster.

Plus, all the experts agree at this point that the best vaccine is the one that you can get right away. While hesitation due to brand is understandable, knowing that you will not be getting a certain brand from a certain manufacturer shouldn’t deter people to the point of not getting vaccinated at all or make them overcrowd another vaccine site and increase the potential of spreading COVID-19 due to high volume crowds.

At this point, the biggest problem after lack of vaccines and insufficient rollout policies is vaccine hesitation. There are still so many Filipinos who are scared of getting vaccinated. While the hesitancy is grounded due to previous bad experiences and scares, this time it’s different and we all need to be united if we want to make a difference.

I guess at this point, time will see if the vaccine blind policy will start to make headway. Already on social media, I am seeing more and more people getting their jabs and that’s good news. We had a very slow start rollout-wise, but hopefully, as we pick up more and more we will see a solid and sustainable decrease in our numbers.

With the private sector gearing up for their big vaccine rollouts in June, things can hopefully only improve even more. At least the economic frontliners will finally get their much-needed vaccines through corporate programs and feel a little safer going to work to help revive our struggling economy. A more vaccinated Metro Manila will be a safer place for everybody.

And while I do also understand the frustration of many in the provinces about the slower rollouts in their locales, there is merit in prioritizing the COVID-19 epicenter of NCR+ at this point in the vaccine program. After all, whenever someone is injured it is only prudent to treat the worst or sickest part first before starting on the others. This is what’s necessary on the road to recovery.

At this point, everything that happens in NCR+ will impact the rest of the country. Most, if not all, of the outbreaks in the provinces, can be traced back to people who have traveled back there from Metro Manila. If we can reduce the cases here I think we will start to see a downward trend in other parts of the country as well.

Hopefully, as our vaccine programs get more robust and rolling on their own, the government can then focus its efforts outward and make the necessary enhancements and improvements to provincial vaccination efforts. Again, we’ll only make real and significant progress if we do it all together.

At the end of the day, there is some hint of light shining at the end of the tunnel. With more vaccines being administered daily, there is a chance of lessening our cases, alleviating our hospitals, and more responsibly trying to revive the economy. Hopefully, this time we won’t see any more massive spikes.

So in the meantime, with all of this happening, the rest of us have to keep up the safety protocols. Wear masks at all times, socially distance, and stay home unless necessary. The road ahead remains long, but if we are consistent, we’ll make it out the other side.

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