Not so fast

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez - The Freeman

Not so fast, again. First, we hear President Duterte allowing private companies to import vaccines "at will" due to the surge in the number of positive cases over the past week. Private companies have long wanted to procure vaccines for their employees and families but were prevented by guidelines set by the government. Vaccine companies were also prevented from dealing directly with private companies. Naturally, Duterte's statement was lauded by many, effectively removing bureaucratic red tape. "Maski magkano o ilan ang gusto nilang ipasok okay sa akin". Clear, right?

But the Palace immediately clarified companies must still enter into a tripartite agreement with the national government. According to the Palace, the agreement is due to the indemnity clause where the government pays in the event of adverse side effects. I wonder what kind of "adverse side effects" cover? If you get a fever after a jab, you get paid? Or if you become hospitalized? But President Rodrigo Duterte ordered vaccine czar and National Task Force against COVID-19 chief Carlito Galvez Jr. to "sign all documents that would permit the private firms to import their supply of COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of the doses they want to procure." Galvez then goes on to clarify what the president meant was to speed up the process and not remove them from the equation. Government still wants to know what vaccines and how many private companies will bring in.

Nothing is ever clear. The Palace always has to step in, clarify, explain, deflect statements or actions from and by the president. "Joke lang", hyperbole, just stressing a point, and expressing frustration are just some of the spins the Palace utilizes to explain Duterte's statements, pronouncements, or unbelievable actions. It remains to be seen if and when private companies or entities start bringing in vaccines procured on their own, for their own. The urgency to get the most number of people vaccinated is real.

The American vaccines, namely Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, have yet to reach the country, fueling the conspiracy theories. Supposedly these are the vaccines hard to acquire since they are preferred by many rich countries. According to a doctor I spoke to, these vaccines are also more difficult to produce since they utilize a new method of development as opposed to the other vaccines that use an "old school" way.

But looking at the latest Pulse Survey where six out of 10 Filipinos do not want to be vaccinated, the more pressing matter for the government is to instill trust in any vaccine to attain herd immunity (not herd....never mind). Convincing more than 42 million people vaccines are safe is no easy task. Data compiled by the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford (ourworldindata.org) shows the country has only 0.5 vaccine doses administered out of a hundred. Not even one dose. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have us beat at 4.2 and 3.2 respectively. Data also show Palestine, Rwanda, and Guatemala able to get their hands on the Moderna vaccine while Rwanda, Palestine, and Malaysia getting their hands on the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine which is difficult to store. The data speak for themselves. We are lagging behind so many countries. Countries like Palestine, Rwanda. If they can get the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, why can't we?

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