Forced to draw

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - March 4, 2021 - 12:00am

In a western movie that I saw decades ago, I heard “forced to draw” uttered by a reluctant gunslinger. I do not remember the title of the film. Neither do I recall the actor. But the scene remained vivid in my memory. Two gunfighters faced each other in a duel to death. The garrulous one challenged the other to draw his “colt” but the latter said that he had no reason to kill. “Do not force me” were the words that seemed fresh in my mind. Just the same, the former drew his revolver but before he could aim it, the latter was “forced to draw” and because he was faster, he was able to fire first the fatal shot.

Today, I want to use in this column the phrase “forced to draw”, the one which I got from the old western movie in relation to the Sinovac vaccine. This medicine manufactured in Communist China arrived in our shores last Sunday. No less than President Rodrigo Duterte, whom I described in an earlier column as the best salesman of the Red Chinese product, welcomed, in person, the arrival of the vaccine. Perhaps, to him, the event was more important than celebrating the death anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal because I remember that he, for no apparent reason, missed attending the wreath-laying ceremonies at the foot of our national hero’s monument at the Luneta last December.

Here is why I say “forced to draw”. When COVID-19, a virus that was believed to have come from Wuhan, China, began killing thousands of people worldwide and destroying trans-national economies, we heard of leading scientific laboratories around the universe scrambling to search for an antidote. University of Oxford announced first that it was on the verge of producing a vaccine. Not long after, Pfizer publicized that it was on the cusp of developing a medicine to fight the virus. Indeed, when they somehow completed their research, they were the very first companies to file a request with the Food and Drug Administration for Emergency Use Authority in order that their vaccines may be used in our country. Their respective EUA’s were approved supposedly after careful and thorough evaluation by the FDA. Sinovac was not in the FDA radar and it was unheard of. Naturally, our government started the process of buying the Pfizer and Astra Zeneca vaccines because they were the only ones scientifically approved for injection. But, lo and behold, someone “dropped the ball” and our importation of the vaccine got derailed. It came out later that our country’s Secretary of Health was responsible for dropping the ball.

It surprised me that instead of addressing the need to cure the flaw of the Pfizer and Astra Zeneca importation, our top leaders began talking about the Sinovac. Subsequently, the curious minds among our legislators started digging and they learned that the Sinovac had 50% efficacy rate compared to Pfizer’s 94%! Sen Panfilo Lacson seemed to stumble upon a horrendous possible over price amounting to sixteen billion pesos if the Sinovac vaccine were to be purchased.

A pattern emerged. News reports in the following weeks revealed that certain documents bugged the Pfizer and AstraZeneca importation. Instead of their projected arrival in the first week of February 2021, full two months after their injection to the British and Americans, they were pushed back to much later dates. In the meantime, the Sinovac belatedly filed its EUA application and in a rush, it got an FDA approval. I take note, with undisguised wonderment, that together with the EUA grant to the Communist Chinese drug, our government announced that the Sinovac would arrive in the Philippines within 3 days! This time our leaders kept silent about the importation of Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

With the arrival in our country of Pfizer and AstraZeneca uncertain and the presence of Sinovac, our people, still most afraid of this Chinese-originated virus, have no choice. We are “forced to draw”.  We will be injected only with this 50.4% effective Communist vaccine.

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