CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - January 15, 2021 - 12:00am

KKB was originally the Tagalog equivalent of Dutch Treat meaning “Kanya Kanyang Bayad” but in today’s pandemic reality and vaccine confusion, it can mean Kanya Kanyang Bakuna/Kanya Kanyang Bili. In English, it’s “every man for himself.” Instead of a unified effort in acquiring vaccines against COVID-19, we now see and hear about how almost anyone with money and a constituency (political or corporate) is ready or willing to buy vaccines for their own use. The irony is that in spite of all government efforts, including using the once persuasive influence of President Duterte, most LGUs and mayors as well as the private sector prefer and have negotiated with AstraZeneca instead of China’s Sinovac.

Contrary to the accusation of the talking head in Malacañang, the decision to go with AstraZeneca is not a simple matter of preference or “being choosy.” From the looks of it, the LGU officials are being smart and staying away from future lawsuits and graft charges. While President Duterte may disdain the concept of “biddings” and “lowest bidder wins,” we have laws that safeguard public interest and public funds and best interests of the state. In spite of the pandemic and proclamations intended to do away with bureaucratic delay, the spirit of the law remains and it can and will be used against violators in a court of law. It is all just a matter of time and who rules the roost when those who made deals today or handled billions of pesos in emergency funds will be made to account for the money and those who fail to will end up in court if not in jail.

Having said all that, I presume that mayors have opted to go with the AstraZeneca vaccines because of two major considerations: price and efficacy and subsequently to avoid lawsuits and stay out of jail after their terms. The AstraZeneca vaccine, I was told by Mayor Gatchalian, costs only P500 for the double dose while the Sinovac version, according to Senate data, is at P3,629. The AstraZeneca vaccine hovers at 70 percent efficacy while Sinovac in its Brazil trial only rates 50.4 percent efficacy. By simple comparison, the Sinovac option will look illogical and disadvantageous. Another worrisome possibility, unless the DOH does a calibrated purchase and distribution of the Sinovac vaccines, is a scenario where a big bulk of the orders end up unused or expired because LGUs and the public have already gone with other brands. What are the chances that half of the 25 million doses will end up expired? If that happens, it is almost certain that Malacañang and the DOH will be crawling on hands and knees begging for money to fund the subsequent round of vaccines for 2022 because I recently read that the Covid-19 vaccine is only good for one year +/-.

Needless to say but I’ll say it anyway, if the government is not prudent and wise in handling the Covid-19 vaccination program, what was meant to heal and protect could end up hurting all of us even more. The only silver lining I see in all the debate is that at least one lawmaker if not more, namely Congressman Rufus Rodriguez, has taken the initiative to file two bills in Congress to fast track the private sector purchase of vaccines. The first bill is meant to give permission or the right to private companies to purchase their own vaccines without having to wait on the government to say yes and which one to buy. Perhaps Congressman Rodriguez can insert a provision in his bill that will let vaccine manufacturers take orders locally and deliver directly to the private sector so we can avoid a situation where thousands of importations are made or applied for. The other bill of Congressman Rodriguez proposes to do away with all taxes and duties usually levied on the importation of vaccines and medicines. If only such a provision could be extended or applied to special purpose medicines used for cancer, transplants and similar medical concerns where the costs are so prohibitive!

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Here is a special request to our readers who might be searching for meaning and purpose in life, for people who lead small groups, own large companies or in some way lead people either for work, leisure or church. The simple act of donating a small amount of blood – 450ml to be specific – could save lives, particularly the lives of infants and children who end up at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center in Quezon City. Like many health facilities, the PCMC’s Pediatric Blood Bank facility has suffered a slow but sure decrease in their stock of available blood for kids requiring transfusion or surgery.

At the moment the PCMC has relied on the practice of collecting blood from patient’s friends and relatives who contribute in order to replace what patients draw from the blood bank, but this is far from the ideal practice of collecting from real donors and volunteers. In order to qualify you only have to make sure that you are at least 110 lbs./50 kgs, normal blood pressure with pulse rate between 60 to 100 beats per minute at the time of donation.

The body will quickly replenish the 450ml draw from a donor in three to five hours and I know this from my experience years ago where I needed to take out blood every two weeks due to a blood condition. I, however, you are pregnant, have tattoos, ear/body piercing, had recent surgery, acute fever or serious illness you won’t qualify based on health and safety protocols.

To be sure, please get in touch with the Philippine Children’s Medical Center Pediatric Blood Center. Quezon Blvd. Corner Agham Road, Quezon City.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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