Happy V-Day!

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UNDER normal circumstances, we would have referred to this universal greeting, straight from the heart, getting it across either through Cupid’s legendary arrow, or simply just from a mere eye-wink, a facial joviality, or any body language evocative of the day’s significance. But, we’re under extraordinary times, normalcy having been shattered for about a year now. These are still pandemic times, but V in this instance is the sought-after, much looked for vaccine. Yes, the long awaited panacea for all the world’s troubles, and for which so much lives have been given up.

Yes, we’ve been agog and abuzz for weeks now, just getting teary-eyed for the awaited arrival of the V. Vaccines, how many more days shall it be before they’re here and about, waiting to be thrust in willing arms? Already, the latest word from those in charge says there’d be a slight delay in the arrival process, long anticipated right after Valentine’s Day. That means, by tomorrow, as originally projected.

But no, it seems very possible that the usual kinks are getting the whole process in helter-skelter. Even tomorrow’s new scheduled arrival is enough to raise quizzical eyebrows. For a while there, we’re thinking that the logistical procedure of getting the vaunted vials is just a merry mix-up. By Pinoy standards, that’s just par for the course.

It has in fact prodded PRRD himself to warn the usual suspects at the customs area to lay off this arriving arsenal vs. covid-19. Not a chance, gents, intones a grim-eyed PRRD, you’re not even allowed to open the shipment up. Anyone deemed doing that is immediately lined up against the wall?

But a late-night newscast has yielded what can be the unanticipated snag to the whole process. It seems that under our procurement law, any advance payment should not go beyond 15% of cost. More than that gets the signatories eligible for the calaboose. But, and here’s the hitch, the drug firms with whom LGUs are getting the vials are insisting on a 20% DP. Will our procuring czars go post-haste to Congress for an exemption, given the extraordinary times?

No matter, life gets on in our neck of the woods. Travel for leisure has just been allowed for the entire GCQ month of February, giving the beleaguered tourist sector the proverbial shot in the arm — just like what the vaccines are to long-suffering folks who have weathered it out since March last year. Hopefully, as travel restrictions get a bit more eased down, the cancelled bookings that greeted hotel desks should have been restored, after the usual charming come-ons.

In short, travelling into and out of Baguio is now a yes-yes, simply because we can’t take care of business recovery if the brunt of the business are the arriving tourists. Yes, it’s been harangued these past several months that getting tourists back in Baguio is like getting the virus past our borders.

That aint so, if the recorded numbers are of any indication. Not one tourist has been listed up to be a source of transmission. In recent months, the spike in positive cases largely came from the expanded mass base of testing. More tests means more covid, isn’t it? Co sequently, less tests means less covid.

Indeed, the virus, what we have been hit, what has been stalking us in a deadly encounter all throughout, remained a potent threat, now made more virulent throughout the pandemic, courtesy of new variants (the UK and the South African variety) that have been detected to be menacing the world, regardless of wealth or lack of it, leaping from body to body at a quicker pace, just like in a snap.

So now that the vaccines are on the way, literally ready to be stuck on willing arms, are we just about getting prepped up to take that plunge?

Let’s face it, for nearly a year now, we have looked forward to getting the vaunted vaccines. Now that they’re practically enroute, how come the registration in most localities, undoubtedly including us here, to get the first shot isn’t causing much of a stir. A locality down under of about 400,000 souls merely shows about 50,000 getting listed up.

Getting the vaccine in our midst is just the first step; ensuring that these vials are potent enough to be in their best condition (well-refrigerated in compartments brought to freezing cold degrees) is quite another that LGUs earmarked to receive them need to contend with and prepare for.

Are our people, exemplified by the frontliners eyed to be in the forefront of the vaccination program, ready, willing and able. Already, a national survey brought out that only a miniscule 51% are enthusiastic to have the proverbial shot in the arm, regardless of the brand carrying the vaunted vaccine. The remaining half are either unwilling or adopting a wait-and-see attitude. Meaning, let others take the plunge before I do mine. Meaning, is it really safe, efficacious, effective — the three key words we often hear being played out night after night.

Much of the public hesitance stems from several key consideration, foremost of which has deep-seated historical roots. Remember Dengvaxia, the controversial anti-dengue vaccine injected into children arms at the latter years of the previous regime? Remember how much anguish parents ejected in those days when loved ones perished into the dark night, mostly kids injected with the vaccine?

The reluctance also stems from published worries over the safety, efficacy, and effectiveness of the vaccines. Just what rate of effectiveness should merit public acceptance and willingness to take the plunge? Experts are saying that completion of the required clinical trials for the vaccine will greatly help inculcate faith. Above 50% efficacy is good enough, but for many Pinoys, just above the half-line isn’t good enough, reacting more to a ghost of a fear or adopting a waiting game, watching out for clear signs of safety and protection.

However belated, there is crystal-clear need for the general public, stripped from sector to sector, to know the science-based facts and figures about getting vaccinated. Much anguish has resulted from the Dengvaxia mess, but we’re dealing now with something deadlier, something undiscriminating when it comes to bodies needed to host the virus, variant or original.

Experience has shown us that in the old days, it was easy to get the people into the willing arms of vaccinator. But the veil of anxiety keeps on besieging the effort. LGUs are surely aware of this and will expectedly do what is best. Getting the vaccines unboxed is one thing. Getting these into willing arms, that’s what it’s all about. Get the Dengvaxia scare out of the equation and you’d have the vaunted vaccine peeled out of dread and back into pliant arms.

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