Time out?

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Now that the much-awaited vaccines are here, being actually rolled out since Friday last week, it may be prudent to simply get the vaccination going, despite warts perceived or actually experienced. So much anxiety these past several weeks have erupted in much of the public consciousness, no doubt fed by what are posted online and published in newspaper accounts, or even bled to dry in every telecast.

For now, we’re trying to get Sinovax, the first to arrive, out of the way and into willing arms, starting with the frontliners — they who have undoubtedly labored all this time, exposing themselves to virus-infected environment, tending to the health needs of stricken compatriots and even distraught foreigners. Since Sinovax is out there heading the pack, as if in a race, shouldn’t the eligible first-rankers be out there with their outstretched arms, willing to get the proverbial shot?

In a sense, it shouldn’t be much of a bother or even a riddle, this issue of getting vaccinated. Far too long have the populace been lured up that the light at the tunnel comes with the inoculating needle containing the awaited vaccine. All this time, drug makers have themselves been going through their own race, who gets first is where the treasure chest beckons. All this time, people have been mesmerized that the salvation is at tunnel’s end, even if that far back, the tunnel seems to be a lengthening structure waiting in the dark to pounce at any time.

Ok so it’s Sinovax, coming in from the Novovax facility, courtesy of the World Health Organization, and into our midst, purposely for everyone to see, especially those in the waiting list, how it would be when the needle begins its descent into the willing arm. So how was the crowd, if ever there was, in the vaccination centers set up to be populated by the chosen ones? Was there that big of a crowd to mesmerize one’s imagination, enough to make all the others in the eligible ranks to race among themselves, lest the vaccine vials get fully dispatched, again as in a horse race?

Not so many days later, it’s AstraZeneca, the Western-style drug that the pharma giant has produced in millions of doses, snatched in a snap by countries far ahead of us in initiative, in resourcefulness and yes, of resource. But, lo and behold, only a mere fraction of what have been acquired through the WHO-run Covovax facility, have been delivered into our midst, again giving the eligible something to pause for. Sinovax or AZ?

Meantime, the viral grip on dear Pinas, especially in the metropolitan Manila area, continues its spiraling journey, this time much speedier and reportedly on a fast journey into human bodies. Friday this week, the countup on positive cases just in the Metro has nearly reached 4,000 all in one day, eclipsing a single-high episode of a day six months back, when the capital reeled further up in case tallies.

Why the sudden uptick may have something to do with the latest on the UK variant that has mutated from the original virus life-form. Accordingly, British experts are nearly in unison warning the global population that the UK model of coronavirus is 40% deadlier than its mother and 60% much faster in human-to-human transmission. The UK variant has been in the country since early January, even reported to have reached as far as Kalinga up here and as far as Davao down there.

Could this be the variant’s doing? Even right here in Baguio, in just two successive days last week, we hit 118 in a day, then surged up to 143 the next day. Of course, by this time, the countup has been hovering in lesser double digits, in the 30s in fact, enough to give our vigilant health protectors enough reprieve from raised eyebrows, twitching noses, and racing hearts.

But no worry, say the tourism stakeholders who have dug in the forefront bemoaning the bleeding tourist industry’s uphill struggle to keep afloat, to get back on trach, to be much of a spearhead force in pushing the tottered economy to a driven force. Mayor Benjie must have heard enough, reason why Baguio these days has inbound tourists freed from the usual border control restrictions. No more magical travel pass, no more med certs and clearances, not even antigen tests at touchdown, unless the incoming shows some indications and signs that they’re exhibiting the dreaded sympthoms.

Just last weekend, tourist arrivals were coming in by the thousands — unlike in the last quarter of last year (except December) when arrivals have been in the single digits. Sure, the numbers are still way, way down from the usual tens of thousands coming in during an ordinary weekend visit. Sure, we’re still far from home, as they say.

But already, Gladys Vergara, the tourism council head, sounds highly optimistic that by next month, inching up in the numbers would be more decisive not just to keep tourist establishments symbolically afloat, but determined to get going, as in a racetrack. Surely, that is optimism to the nth degree, hopefulness till it bursts. But, that’s good, simply because all thgis time, indeed, tourist stakeholders have labored hard and long just to keep the head above water.

Back to the vaccine numbers game. In the case of vaccines that will be obtained through the Novovax facility run by the World Health Organization, set up purposely to equalize opportunities for availment by developing (vs. developed) countries, these are not commercially available, but are to be turned over to the national government for distribution to pre-determined priority areas (Baguio is one).

There is at the same time the matter of indemnification that drug manufacturers are said to have asked for, probably guided by their experience with the Dengvaxia controversy years back, when scores of vaccinated kids lost their mortality. Of course, that issue will have a bearing in today’s procurement of the Covid-19 vaccines, reason why the national government relented and has in fact threshed the matter out by the passage of a law authorizing it, the first-ever national enactment red-flagged out in a snap.

Unarguably, these are still pandemic times, even if the V word these days is often heard and resonating in every nook and place hereabouts. Yes, V in this instance is the sought-after, much awaited vaccine. Yes, vaccines are what have made us agog and abuzz all this time, the long expected panacea for all the world’s troubles, and for which so much lives have gone in a snap when the pandemic struck at its mightiest early on.

For us to get back in our life, we do have to do everything possible to get past the crisis of our times. No ifs and buts there. What good indeed is Buhay without Kabuhayan? It’s a rallying cry we’ve been bombarded with since way way back. Fine, let’s stay safe, secured, and alive, but never forget the means to live for. Fine, let’s keep on abiding by the minimum health standards — mask, hugas, iwas — besieging us in every turn, but keep the economy open, bit by bit, even in so painstakingly slow a manner. Give back jobs that have been lost. Activate businesses that have sputtered or closed down. Open up more jobs and livelihood opportunities. Make the economy hum anew, first to fourth gear if need be. But keep it going.

Certainly, life can only get back on track, with greater confidence on our part if the awaited vaccines are finally and fully here, never mind the varying brands that besiege human curiosity, for as long as willing arms are there. Hopefully, the climate of hesitance, of reluctance, even of outright denial will have dissipated fast enough through an all-out response, with you and I and the rest of the target population get the proverbial shot to make everyone, his family, his neighbors and friends LIGTAS LAHAT.

For that to happen in the next several days, it should do well for an all of society response to take place. Fine, let’s make ready for the vaccines, fine-tune the preparations on the ground, prep ed the places where the vaccines shall first be stored in their respective freezing levels, ready up the places where the vaccination shall take place. But, at day’s end, if only 30% of the targeted sectors shows up, then the vaccine hesitance is real and daunting.

Public information of the scale that seeks to overturn a negative attitude has to be done with consistency, with constancy, and with communication made on-target to the audience we seek. In this instance, the level of motivational information must be carried out by influencers from people that matter when it comes to reach and coverage.

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, enough to make the waiting list last longer. A locality down under of about 400,000 souls merely shows about 50,000 getting listed up. Hardly encouraging.

Belated as it may seem, there’s still time to do just that, by the concerted collaboration between the public and the private sectors. For this to work, it’s best for the private sectors to take the lead, showcasing that community spirit of finding the resilient, protective ways of safeguarding the population’s health and wellbeing. Nothing less can do more.

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