Light at tunnel’s end

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What’s happening outside our shores has deadlier consequences for us here. India is reeling from a 3rd wave, this time from a super-variant that seems impervious to standard health protocols, despite rapid vaccination from a country that has manufactured its own branded vaccine. Over in the United States, it appears that their own covid response has produced remarkable results, indicating a dramatic turnaround from the dismal case tallies in just three months. Last heard, they’re talking of minding the global need for vaccines, ever ready to dispatch succor drugs for the less developed countries. Supply appears to have overtaken demand.

Right here in our midst, the latest focus is on the vaccination program. Fine, it’s only Sinovax that’s available on-site. But as a pundit, my barber, would be quick to say, “Better something than nothing.” At a time when cases right here are in a relentless surge upnorth, vaccination is the only savior for most, the elderlies with comorbidities even.

About the one thing that’s worrisome is the dismal show-self effort noticeably discernable just by visiting the on-site centers where the eligible identified groups of individuals can get the shot in the arm. Accordingly, the second biggest barangay had 133 warm bodies showing up, and this community has about 10,000 residents. With the elderlies counted at an average of 30% of total, that’s still a dismal show in any language.

One wishes a straight, up-front show-cause why the show-up percentage seems getting lukewarm, if not outright rejection. Is vaccine reluctance that high? Put in another way, is there a better way of inducing, attracting, seducing the no-no, maybe-maybe, later-later group? Let’s face it, the vaccine on deck doesn’t have a long life term, it needs to be dispensed upon un-sealing.

Which begs the question: do we have to mandate the compulsory vaccination of the target populace? In times of need as now, when the extraordinary situation demands no less than an extraordinary measure, it makes one think that this pandemic has had a heavy toll on our ideals as a free nation, a free people steeped in keeping our liberties out of government check.

There is a better way, from where we sit: how about a massively conducted public education and advocacy campaign that cuts across all sectors, are community-based, and will represent an “all society” response to an extraordinary need?

This is not to demean and belittle the public information conveyors that government has unleashed since the vaccination program was announced three months back. Everyone engaged in this effort may well have been stretched out too thinly, not unlike the medical frontliners who have been too maxed out, given their minute-by-minute exposure to transmission occurrences. Our PIOs have been the very epitome of uncomplaining, work-to-the-bone type of public servants just doing their darned best to dish it out, minute-by-minute.

In a way, vaccine reluctance or hesitancy may well have developed over the years by confused messages that people are getting. The experts have been in the forefront of this besieging information. It’s like getting them grouped in a large room for an expert thing to say. Put a hundred of them, and you’d get a hundred differing views.

To reiterate, it must also be how anyone looks at this specific health and safety need for a vaccine. Having a particular choice in anything in life just comes as a matter of course for any people steeped in freedom. Regardless of consequences, it’s all about the choices we make, the direction to take, the pathway to tread on.

That’s exactly what we’ve been experiencing these pandemic times as we continued to grapple with difficult choices, not wanting to take chances that could spell direly in the end. After all, why take chances on some things that can be weighed in closest to our chest? Life may be a gamble in more ways than one, but when it comes to tough choices, well, almost always, we give in because the mind matters it most, regardless how feelings come and go.

Fine, government has been striving in more than a year to galvanize a concerted, no-nonsense, no frills, no fuzz kind of a response battling it out to beat this dreaded virus that has taken everyone — nations and peoples — by storm. Make the anti-covid response tough and toughening, do exert political will in every aspect of the now-year-long war of attrition. Just be that and we’ll all be safe, sound, and sane at the end of a seemingly endless journey into the unknown.

Now, we’re back to another month of dizzying quarantine classification. There had been fits and turns, capped by highlighted surges of case tallies in the ECQ-turned-into-MECQ in just three weeks. Palpably, the Metro Manila plus 4 provinces down under have community life turned upside down. Quarantine restrictions have been made tougher, pushing every aspect of metro-life in a tizz.

While daily attack rates by the virus have considerably gone lower, the case count remained on that high, past the rooftop, even if a bit seemingly slowed down, but still hovering per day at 8,000 to10,000 in a week of somewhat loosened restrictions.

Hardly a source of elation, but encouraging just the same. In just a week of MECQ, health and economic needs seemed to have finally reached the happy blend. Oh yes, hospitalization remained on tenterhooks, with the ailing population outnumbering those inside the hospital, waiting for the first bed made available for the more distressed patients. Even the hospital response setup in areas farther out of the MECQ zone has shown worrisome incapacity.

Meantime, the economic losses in the MM plus 4 area kept its upward climb, running as of last count at about P50 billion these past recent weeks. Businesses in the metro region strived hard to be afloat, at the very least its head above water, but workers were off and on, driven mostly out of the streets by limited PUVs allowed on the route.

Just a while back, we’ve been called to show up at a vaccination site. Finally, we told ourselves, heaving a long-held sigh of relief that the light at tunnel’s end was now flickering its attractive luminosity. What if, as claimed this Sinovax has indeed an infinitely low efficacy rate of 50.04%? Easy, my wisecrack of a barber would say, get the second dose, also having the same level efficacy, and add it together. Lo and behold, you’ve got 100.08%!

Let it be reiterated: the uphill struggle to get the populace vaccinated appears to show vaccine reticence — duda sila — and reluctance —pa hele-hele pa. Make no mistake about it, vaccine denial remains embedded deep in each other’s heart.

Bear this in mind: Those with ifs and buts are a hardline 30% of the target sectors simply adamant in their obstinacy, provoking a visibly amused PRRD himself to blurt out in seeming exasperation: “Ang ayaw magpabakuna, mauna na kayong mamatay!”

Throughout all this national drama taking place in the metropolis, no less than Mayor Benjamin Magalong is pushing hard for no less than a 100 percent vaccination of eligible residents to achieve herd immunity.

Ever the optimistic, he was reported to have targeted a closing out bull’s eye against the covid virus after being assured of more vaccine donors lining up in a zestful of energy.

Good for Baguio, our own private sectors have enlisted for a consolidated procurement, thanks to a Baguio Tourism Council that refuses to give up, just because a solitary brand is lording it over in the vax sites.

As my barber says, “iba ang bakunado. Proteksyon ay sigurado.” This must be what Angat Tayo Baguio is all about. At the end of another dismal day.

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