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BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

It’s been a while since I wrote about COVID-19. I feel I need to write about this topic again because in online comments and in conversations I had with some friends and strangers, they imply that the “supposed COVID-19 pandemic” is some ruse that has suddenly disappeared because it is election season.

Health experts have warned of a COVID-19 surge after the May 9 polls. I can almost predict what those people who believe the pandemic is a hoax or is an overblown health crisis will say next. They will say, “See, I told you so. Nahuman naman ang election, balik nang COVID. Kita ra’y gibinuangan ani.” Which is sad.

Because with the increasing availability of and access to information alongside advances in information technology today, people can easily do some fact checking. Many people may not understand the science behind this pandemic, so they may be distrustful of authorities and experts.

I had a foot massage at the mall the other week by a fully-vaccinated therapist. He told me that he took the jab because it was required by his employer. If a booster shot will not be required, he will not take it.

Somehow I don’t blame him. It is normal for people to react emotionally rather than rationally in a crisis situation. Two years into this pandemic, people have grown tired of the restrictions. Many are angry or frustrated that things are still not returning to pre-pandemic normal plus there are warnings of another surge coming.

To our credit, most people can still be seen wearing a face mask in public. But there are crazy, facepalm moments that make you wonder why people behave the way they do, like this man waiting in line with us at a driver’s license renewal center the other day who kept on removing his mask every time he sneezed.

If more people take more time to think and reason, maybe we can get over this pandemic as soon as we can and get back to how it was pre-pandemic. However, today’s social media environment with its powerful algorithms tend to amplify people’s irrational attitudes, particularly when they are fed with misinformation they are likely to believe and share.

Many people, for example, tend to ignore the real plausible reasons for the sustained decline in COVID-19 cases since February. Experts have said that it was the combination of the increasing rate of vaccination, the Omicron wave in January which built natural immunity, and continued masking and distancing measures.

Dr. Rajendra Yadav and Dr. Sangjun Moon of the World Health Organization office in the Philippines warn that the pandemic is not over yet. “We still need to get at least 70% of the total population vaccinated, with a greater focus on vaccinating the 2.4 million older adults who have not received even a single dose,” they said.

“In addition, we still need to continue masking, physical distancing, ensuring proper ventilation, and hand hygiene. If we continue to do that, we will be ready for the next COVID-19 wave. But, if we stop doing that too soon, we will be wasting the lessons we have learned from the two years of living with the pandemic. Using the tools we have and the lessons we learned, the Philippines can transition to sustained management of COVID-19. So let us do that collectively,” the WHO officials added.

Protection against COVID-19 after two doses of the vaccine wanes over time. That is the reason why the Centers for Disease Control in the US and our very own Department of Health recommend a third dose as booster shot. The Philippines’ booster shot rate is only about 10% of the entire population (12.74 million booster doses), or only around 29% of qualified individuals.

Health officials see a combination of waning immunity and reduced compliance of public health protocols in predicting a possible post-election surge. The prediction is not some contrived situation to control people’s lives and enrich a few others.

So while the case numbers are still down, get your COVID-19 booster shot now. If you’re still unvaccinated against COVID-19 and have stayed healthy for months, you have those fully-vaccinated people around you to thank. It’s called the science of herd immunity.

The pandemic’s worst is over but it does not mean the pandemic is over. At this stage, it’s about adopting a risk-based approach and making intelligent choices to keep the threat at bay.


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