Don’t cuss vaccine hesitaters for spotty supply and access

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Three-and-a-half months after rollout, COVID-19 vaccinations remain lackadaisical. The Philippines is third slowest among ten ASEAN states. As of June 8, about 4.3 percent of Filipinos, or 4.63 million, had one dose; only 1.6 percent, or 1.68 million, were fully vaccinated. As of June 12 the average rate of vaccination was 137,543 per day. At that trickle, herd immunity – 65 percent of the population, or 70 million of 108 million – would be achieved in two-and-a-half years, or February 2024.

Malacañang mechanically blamed it on vaccine skepticism. Hesitaters were again cussed to get injected or else prepare for cremation.

Profanity is a sign of a lazy mind. A quick look at other figures would give clues on where the problem lies:

• As of June 10, about 12.6 million doses had been received by the national government;

• Targeted vaccinees are adults aged 18 and older, 60 percent of Filipinos, or nearly 65 million;

• Forty percent of adults surveyed, or 26 million, want to be inoculated;

• Fifty-two million doses are needed to inoculate the 26 million;

• With only 12.6 million doses on hand, the government is short of 39.4 million doses.

So the question to ask is, where are the vaccines? No need to cuss the officials who are ignoring the facts.

They can consider other inputs. Metro Manila vaccinations had to stop last week due to absence of doses. Only 3.5 million of Metro Manila’s 14 million people want to be injected, or seven million doses for them alone. Half of initial vaccinees have not returned for their second jabs. That includes frontline health workers, 98 percent of whom have had first jabs, and are not vaccine doubters.

The question from these are: Are the vaccines accessible or tied up in red tape and poor logistics planning? Is vaccination made easy for priority sectors, or are they barred from commuting to the clinics? Are they informed of immunization schedules and venues to begin with?

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AnaKalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor’s hard sell of Ivermectin against COVID-19 can do it more harm than good. Doctors and other lawmakers who advocate the drug’s wide availability wish he’d tone down the politicking. Let science speak, they post online. Some rant that he’s taking his initials too seriously, acting like a medic when he’s not.

Before Defensor joined, the Ivermectin lobby had won adherents. Presented were dozens of international studies on the effectiveness of the 40-year-old anti-parasitic med against coronavirus. At only 10¢-80¢ per capsule, it might better prevent and treat the pandemic than the $100-$800 vaccines and IVs. But many specialists also frown on the findings. With experts split on the issue, Philippine drug regulators cautiously will first hold domestic clinical trials. Still, manufacturing licenses have been issued for anti-parasitic use, and compassionate special permits given to six hospitals for COVID patients.

Impatient with the process, Defensor gave away Ivermectin tablets in Quezon City’s Old Balara district where he resides. To the shock of health advocates, no regard was made of the recipients’ age, weight or medical history. Unsigned prescriptions were handed out.

Days later Defensor attributed to his drug distribution the drop in infections in Old Balara. The medical advocates had to dissociate from him. His claim might make them look ignorant of statistical and causal evidence gathering.

There are many probable reasons why the cases went down, including quarantine restrictions and the vaccination drive. The efforts and sacrifices of medical frontliners should not be invalidated.

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“Gotcha: An Exposé on the Philippine Government” is available as e-book and paperback. Get a free copy of “Chapter 1: Beijing’s Bullying and Duplicity”. Simply subscribe to my newsletter at: https://jariusbondoc.com/#subscribe. Book orders also accepted there.

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