FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

It appears the goal of achieving herd immunity for the country by the end of the year is back on the agenda.

A few weeks ago, when vaccine delivery was in trickles, it seemed the goal was abandoned. Even the most ardent managers of the vaccination program began talking of achieving the goal by the middle of the next year. Now, they are confidently predicting the goal will be achievable next January at the latest.

The factor that changed is vaccine supply. Manufacturers have firm commitments on delivery dates over the next months. Our biggest procurement of 40 million doses from Pfizer will be delivered in large tranches beginning next month.

At the moment, we have over 10 million doses in our stockpile, ready to be deployed. That is more than the total administered from March to date.

The vaccines independently procured by private groups and local governments have begun to be delivered. The City of Manila has received the 400,000 doses it ordered. The first large delivery of Moderna vaccines will arrive tomorrow, June 27.

Many private companies had organized their medical teams months ago. San Miguel Corporation, for instance, seconded its medical teams to the government vaccination drive while awaiting delivery of its vaccine orders. The Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry has its own inoculation teams.

The vaccination program is proving its mettle. NTF deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon reports that in the preceding two days, over 700,000 jabs were administered. We have upped our daily average to 350,000 jabs per day.

Credit must be given the Department of Health and the local governments. Even when vaccine supplies were low, they have been dry-running inoculation procedures to ensure more jabs can be delivered by our health system.

Credit must also be given the Department of Finance (DOF) for securing the financing for massive vaccine purchases. As early as the middle of last year, when vaccines were still being developed, DOF secured the support of international financial institutions to fund procurement. Our financing facilities were ready even before the first vaccines were given emergency use authorization.

If we did not get the vaccines at the time we thought we should have them, it is not for want of funds to procure them. The global supply situation was tight. It was a seller’s market and we were not ordering at the bulk or at the price that might bring us to the front of the queue.

There are more ample supplies today. Apart from the dosages we are prepared to buy, it is likely we would get more from the COVAX Facility coming from the billion doses the G-7 countries are donating.

The real test will be at the inoculation frontlines. We are told our health system could very well manage 700,000 inoculations per day. If that is true, herd immunity should be achievable sooner than we might have imagined.

Noy, 61

Few people knew of former president Noynoy Aquino’s medical condition until he expired Thursday morning.

Since he left office, Noynoy Aquino was largely reclusive. No medical bulletins were issued and the public did not ask. The challenges to his health were kept private, as was his right.

The first inkling I had of how much his condition had deteriorated was last Saturday. Without me asking, Berna Romulo Puyat pulled out her phone and showed me a recent photo of the former president. I gasped at how much weight he had lost and how sickly he seemed.

It turned out, as we all learned since Thursday, that the former president was due for a kidney transplant. He was being prepared for it and potential donors were being screened. He died in his sleep. The official death certificate attributed his passing to renal failure secondary to diabetes.

Even for those in the tight circle of family and friends aware of his medical condition, Noynoy Aquino’s passing came as a shock. Death always comes like a thief in the night – even for those whose lives were closely observed.

The nation mourns the passing of a former president, as it should. A 10-day period of national mourning has been declared.

This is not the time to draw judgment on his legacy and performance as the nation’s chief executive. That is a task better left for history to accomplish.

This is not the time to engage in partisan chatter about how this death would shape the course of political events henceforth. It is too early for that. Everything said so far has been entirely speculative.

There is no point conversing about how his lifestyle, especially the unhealthy stuff he loved consuming, might have killed him. The man is dead.

There is no point in indulging in the what-might-have-been had he survived the health challenges he had to deal with. The man had basically withdrawn from public life and retreated into his man-cave. He had every right to do so.

Whatever his talents or imperfections, Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III served for six years at the helm. He might not have thirsted for power and was thrust into a role by the fickle tides of public emotion. He did his best trying to fulfill the outsized expectations the nation invested in him.

The least that could be said is that he served with sincerity. He did what he thought was best for the country he loved. It is rare to find persons at the pinnacle reluctant to be there.

For this we all must be grateful. And for this we must justly mourn his passing.

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