FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - May 25, 2021 - 12:00am

What we have here is a non-solution to a non-problem.

When a few vaccination centers began offering Pfizer vaccines, people crowded to get the brand they preferred. There was jostling and hustling among the unscheduled but hopeful recipients. The irony of inoculation sites becoming infection sites emerged.

Those sites were few, fortunately. We received only a handful of Pfizer vaccines from the Covax Facility. As soon as the supply of this brand ran out, the danger of overcrowded vaccination sites dissipated.

The next time we get Pfizer vaccines, they will be in bulk. We placed an order for 40 million doses. That should be enough to keep fans of this brand happy.

But the political chatter about government’s “vaccine agnostic” policy persists much longer than the supply.

After the crowding for Pfizer vaccines happened, President Duterte ordered the DOH to withhold information about the vaccines to be administered at specific sites. This stands as the policy – useless as it is.

The vaccinators know better. Whatever brand of vaccines there is available will be known ahead of time by word of mouth. There are no secrets kept long in our gossipy communities.

Nevertheless, the opposition found the policy grist for their ceaseless (and often contrived) anti-Duterte propaganda. They claimed human rights are being violated and informed consent rendered inoperable.

That is willful distortion of the facts. People are not led to the vaccination sites blindfolded. They will find out the vaccines to be administered on any day the moment they arrive for their appointments. If they disagree with the brand available, they can simply walk away.

I held out for weeks, waiting for the Moderna vaccines ordered by San Miguel Corporation. But delivery of those doses kept being delayed. When my local government called me up for vaccination, I went without hesitation, whatever brand would be given.

I avoided infection through the length of this pandemic. But I am not about to test my luck any further. Time is a risk factor. The sooner I got vaccinated, the better the odds worked to my favor.

Besides, what is important at this point is the speed with which the vaccination program could be executed. The more people get vaccinated, the better the chance we could achieve at least infection containment.

If, as the OCTA group recommends, 90 percent of available vaccines is administered in the NCR Plus area, the sooner we will contain infections. This congested urban sprawl is the main hub of infections. Control the infections here and we control it nationwide.

This June, we expect the delivery of 10 million doses of various vaccine brands. That should be more than enough to achieve containment in the NCR Plus. We should be able to grab the beast by the horns.


Makati City is likely the model local government for the vaccination program.

Since the program began last March, the city has vaccinated over 50,000 of its 600,000 residents. On top of the allocation due it from the national government, Makati has placed an order for a million AstraZeneca vaccines. All who work in the city but are not residents will soon qualify for free jabs.

Makati pioneered drive-through vaccination sites. Physically challenged persons without their own cars can still avail of the service using designated tricycles hired by the city government. Bed-ridden patients are picked up and returned home using ambulances. Those who come for jabs are rewarded with medicine packs to deal with the side effects.

In the first weeks of its vaccination program, Makati demonstrated the discipline to keep inoculations going smoothly. The city’s rich and famous lined up with the poorest for their shots. The staff at the vaccination sites went through detailed time-and-motion exercises long before the vaccines arrived to ensure the process went as quickly as possible.

Mayor Abby Binay, hands-on manager of the vaccination program, is not too worried about vaccine hesitancy. She understands that word-of-mouth is the strongest lever to get people to the vaccination centers. This is the reason she mobilized the city’s most famous residents to go to the communities and spread the word about vaccines.

When access to the vaccines is made as easy as possible, more people will avail of the doses. This is the reason all procedures in Makati are simplified. The city’s vaunted database and the ID cards used to avail of services have been put to good use. This underscores the importance of local governments building an information infrastructure for its citizens.

Everywhere, the barangay has outperformed during the pandemic, enforcing health protocols according to the quarantine level in place. In Makati, the barangay structure has been activated to get people vaccinated. Barangay leaders arrange transport for their constituents to the vaccination sites and help them register for their slots. Vaccine hesitancy, after all, is highest among the poor.

As things are going, Makati should achieve herd immunity ahead of everybody else. Mayor Abby has taken to the task with much passion. Local government, after all, is all about the passion one puts in getting the job done.

If all our local governments can be as driven and as efficient as Makati, the great task of getting 70 million Filipinos vaccinated should not be difficult. This is the largest vaccination program we ever had in our history. It is extremely reliant on the local governments for dealing effectively with the logistics of it all to get shots into arms.

As we embark on this massive vaccination program, other local governments can learn best practices from Makati.

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