Taming the numbers and planning the vaccination program

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - January 23, 2021 - 12:00am

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Cebu City is rising again since December 29. From 96 active cases that day to 702 cases on January 21, the figures call for a renewed reminder that the pandemic is still very much around. I’m talking about the running total of active cases, not the daily new cases.

As for the daily new cases, Cebu City logged in double-digit figures since December 29, and this has not yet gone down back to single-digit ever since. The other day, we logged in 60 new cases in Cebu City. Cebu province is also experiencing a rise in the number of active cases but I’ll focus on Cebu City. As Cebu Island’s most populated area and center of economic activity, the city serves as a barometer of Cebu’s COVID situation.

Unlike during the height of the pandemic last year in our city, today we already know what to do and we have more or less the basic remedial systems in place.  However, in the case of vaccination preparedness, I am not aware of any concrete steps on vaccination preparedness being taken by those in charge at the local level so far. Rather than just merely taking the cue from the national government, we can take proactive steps at the local level now. For example, in the age of data science, we can start planning a vaccination roll-out that is based on essential data we have, down to the sitio level.

Already, I have friends in the business community asking me if I would like to reserve a few slots for a Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine from their own supply network, which would become available as soon as the vaccines get FDA emergency use authorization. I have no problem with people seeking their own supply. If you have the means to immediately access these vaccines, go ahead. Every person who gets vaccinated is most probably one less person who can be a vector spreading the virus.

However, this “iya-iya, ako-ako” approach betrays our lack of a pro-active and clear plan that can assure all sectors that the country won’t be left behind in this global vaccination drive. Epidemiologists and other experts can recommend the most effective vaccination roll-out plan based on the data on the ground. Do we have such plans in place already? Are we gathering data?

So far, we only hear of assurances from government officials about the availability of funds and of prioritizing the poor and the sick. That’s understandable because many people in the country cannot afford the vaccines. But how about those who can afford the vaccines? What’s the supply and roll-out plan for them to access and buy the vaccines of their choice? As I said, every person who gets vaccinated is most likely one less person who can be a vector spreading the virus.

Let me raise another observation I have regarding our own attitude about the pandemic. I think it is a mistake to regard this pandemic as a short-term problem. People may think that once everyone gets a vaccination shot in the arm, everything will return to the way they were pre-COVID.

A part of me wish they are right, but a bigger part is looking at the possibilities moving forward from this crisis. Indeed, this crisis may have brought untold hardships to millions and a death toll of over two million, but it is a hard dose of reality that is brought about by complex factors.

Viruses and bacteria have been a threat to human existence since the beginning of time. Doctors have even been warning that the next big thing could be antibiotic-resistant bacteria due to our misuse of antibiotics, both on ourselves and on meat sources that we put on the dining table. The coronavirus that we are battling now is said to originate from wild animals harboring these pathogens for years in previously untouched forests.

Be that as it may, these threats are now a part of our existence. Thus, we must act accordingly, not only to survive this current plague but also to prevent or minimize impending threats. Today’s crisis calls for a grand recalibration and re-imagination of the future we want. This is not, as I said, a short-term problem. It is a beginning of a new chapter as we turn the pages of history.

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