As the conversations on the COVID-19 shots ring louder, it is important to understand the priority list and why we should patiently wait for our chance at getting vaccinated.
Related: SHOULD WE TAKE THE VACCINE? A DEBATE THAT BECAME TOO PERSONAL
Remember the cautiously optimistic time when we would sign off every virtual meeting, Zoom call, and kilometric messenger conversations with a very earnest, “when all this is over?” Well, violently harrowed by everything unexpected, unprecedented, and unimaginable a little over a year later, the dose of hopefulness has drastically waned. Leaving us realistic, if not unfortunately cynical and indescribably frustrated with the obscene mismanagement of the punishing pandemic by the government, the agencies concerned, and the cancer of cronies seemingly bungling lives, livelihood, and resources with ineffective, shortsighted band aid solutions, it seems that the prospect of pulling through has been singularly directed to faith and chance, and for the rest of the population, waiting for their turn to get vaccinated.
While the rest of the world has started easing towards what now stands to be a shifted sense of normal, the Philippines has barely chalked a significant number of inoculations. Recent reports show that for a population of over 100 million, with the most essential healthcare front liners accounting for 1.7 million of the count, only about 656,331 have been vaccinated so far. With 1.5 million doses at the current disposal of the government, it still is lorded over the alarming fact that as of today, the country has charted 741,181 COVID-19 cases, which logged a record-high one-day surge of 10,016 incidents on March 29.
Following the tepid mass testing, deterioration of contact tracing, and painfully slow roll-out of vaccines, we still have a long way to go before even making a convinced attempt at saying, “When all this is over.”
Who Gets Vaccinated First?
To further complicate an already decayed and distrusted system, it has been reported and confirmed that 9 public officials, as well as of an actor in a more publicized incident of substitution, have been vaccinated ahead of the healthcare workers who have been put through the wringer and back just to keep the collateral damages of the pandemic at a considerable minimum.
“Those who are in situations that make them prone to contracting the virus and spreading it could be considered a priority group,” says Dev Menon, Professor and Senior Advisor/HTPU, School of Public Health in Alberta, Canada. Explaining who should get vaccinated first and why, the expert on health technology assessment details significant factors on the ideal process. Logistics of informing, procuring, storing, distributing, and administering aside, he lists reason for vaccination, values we hold as a society, and potential trade-offs in terms of investments and expenditures. “We must balance resources with society’s preferences for quality of life.”
“Airplane safety directions of putting your own mask on first before attempting to help others is an analogy that applies here,” he says, illustrating the concept of risk versus benefit in the context of vaccination. However, this is no ways means you will leverage connections and perceptions just because your survival of the fittest mode shifts into high gear. And while it is free for everyone who willingly wants a shot at it, it definitely isn’t a free for all situation. Where morals should skew to the north of what is right and fair for everyone, one should respect the priority list and wait for their turn to get vaccinated. We all want to survive, but there are far more vulnerable people who need to be protected first, especially the health care workers. After all, they are the ones risking their lives so that we could all be safe.
Wait For Your Turn To Get Vaccinated
“Variations from the planned prioritization would constitute misuse unless updates to plans are shared with COVAX and are documented, rationalized, and evidence-based,” says a spokesperson for Gavi, the vaccine alliance, in a recent statement. “If misuse is determined, countries will be held to account and will be required to reimburse COVAX.” (For the uninformed, this is the WHO-sanctioned evaluating platform that supports research, development, and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccine candidates.)
With the cases of those skipping the due process of getting vaccinated, especially at this most crucial and critical point of the immunization process, the already challenged access and supply of the Philippines is put at great risk. And it’s not like there isn’t a priority list as drafted and made official by the Department of Health together with National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF). The allocation and administration of the limited supplies and initial tranches donated by the Chinese government and COVAX, including a million more from the Philippine government purchased SinoVac vials, is supposedly strict, strategic, and systemic.
On the DOH website, which is very helpful for all your frequently asked concerns and clarifications, it states that: “With aims of reducing COVID-19 morbidity and mortality, preserving health system capacity, protecting the populations most at-risk to the disease, slowing down COVID-19 transmission rate, and minimizing social and economic disruptions, the resolution prioritizes frontline workers in the national and local health facilities. The framework further lists vulnerable groups—like senior citizens and those with comorbidities—as the next priority for vaccination, and provides for sub-prioritization based on risk exposure or mortality risk and the process flow that citizens will undergo in the vaccination program.”
Stay Safe, Philippines
Since then, the list has gone through updates, specifically addressing the inclusion of local officials to the priority list, as well as explicitly stipulating what falls under the comorbidity category. Explaining how the pre-existing illnesses such as chronic respiratory disease, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, malignancy, diabetes mellitus, and obesity, the IATF cites that as these are more susceptible to COVID-19 complications, the listed conditions merit top priority to get vaccinated. (For a more comprehensive look at the groups and where you possibly qualify, visit the Department of Health website or its Facebook page, where they hold regular webinars to inform and educate about anything and everything vaccine related.)
All things considered, the goal is to provide equitable access for the Philippine population to get vaccinated safely and effectively. As estimated by the Department of Health, it aims to have 70 million Filipinos inoculated by 2021, 60-70% by 2022, and followed by the rest in the next three years. It is an uphill climb with the barest of minimums at their disposal, so the work is definitely cut out for everyone, especially the parties and leaders concerned.
Even if the supply chain miraculously works itself out over the next few months, another challenge is the fact that 61% of the population won’t be racing to get vaccinated at the very first chance to do so. A worrying statistic, which is up from an initial survey of 47% in December last year, a lot of factors are in play here including safety and effectivity concerns, as well as most shocking of all, finding it not necessary to combat the pandemic in the first place. Clearly, we have a problem.
Now, reason and responsibility rests with us to help each other out until the democracy of vaccinations is in full swing. While there isn’t enough to go around just yet, it must be reiterated: wait for your turn to get vaccinated and stay home if you can. For those who aren’t so privileged to do so, observe the health protocols, practice social distancing, and double mask up. Remember, the pandemic is far from being a past tense at this point. So, until the gaps are filled, the discrepancies addressed, and the time comes when we can finally have the courage and clearance to say “when all this is over,” stay safe, Philippines.
(Registration for vaccinations and rollouts have started in key cities by the LGUs, which you can visit through the link found here.)
CONTINUE READING: SO, YOU WANT TO PARTY AMID A PANDEMIC? DON’T.