We need a clear endgame, not distractions

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - April 13, 2021 - 12:00am

First, the good news. Another batch of CoronaVac vaccines arrived in the country yesterday afternoon. This batch consists of 500,000 doses, part of the 25 million doses of vaccines that the Philippine government ordered from Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech.

Also another positive development is that we may finally have the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the country next month. The US has been way ahead of its target of inoculating most of its citizens. Americans are, in fact, looking forward to a normal Fourth of July celebration. That means the US can soon free up some supplies for export.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier sought the assistance of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in speeding up the delivery of the initial batches of the 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines that the Philippines has ordered from US biopharmaceutical company Moderna. Many people are looking forward to that vaccine jab because Moderna’s first dose alone already provides 94.1% protection against symptomatic COVID-19 infection. And so far, there has been no significant adverse event reported in the US inoculation drive using the vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer.

Now, the bad news. There are no signs yet that the surge in COVID-19 infections in Metro Manila and its neighboring regions is abating. COVID-19 deaths are still in triple digits and hospitals are still overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Compared to last year’s wave of infections, the surge this year is closer to home, within our own community of friends and colleagues in the profession. Three days ago I learned from a friend that her mother tested positive for COVID-19. She asked for more prayers yesterday because the otherwise mild symptoms has progressed to pneumonia and has been classified as severe.

I must admit that at the beginning I had mixed feeling about this pandemic. On the one hand I felt some fear, and on the other hand I felt a bit of motivation and peace. I’d like to explain the latter. Every great crisis offers an equivalent great opportunity if we only take time to search for it. There were undesirables in the old normal that the COVID-19 pandemic mitigated, if not destroyed.

For example, we were burning fossil fuels at a rate that we could not sustain in the next 12 years with climate change doomsday knocking on our doors. Our large population continued its rate of consumption that was unsustainable in keeping the balance of our ecology. We just kept on using Earth’s resources like there was no tomorrow. Many of us were living a mindless rat race that was suddenly slowed down by this coronavirus.

On another note, populist leaders who came to power riding on the general dissatisfaction of the system among the people, were suddenly exposed in this pandemic as incompetent leaders. You don’t have to look that far to countries like Brazil. We have our own leaders here busy catching attention to themselves on national TV; recently, showing photos that they are still alive and working.

Instead of such distractions, we should be focusing on an overall long-term strategy for managing the COVID-19 pandemic until herd immunity is achieved through vaccination. But we seem trapped in an economic disaster of endless cycles of partial and full lockdowns. Experts have long suggested a comprehensive test-trace-isolate strategy but we are nowhere near that. What is our endgame?

The Healthcare Professionals Alliance against COVID-19 (HPAAC) has suggested some solutions toward an endgame to this pandemic. I’ll discuss about this endgame in my next column piece.

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