Caution against early celebration due to vaccine arrivals

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Caution against early celebration due to vaccine arrivals

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WE ARE NO ‘KILLJOYS’,  but please put down the champagne glasses and don’t start celebrating just  yet- just because some vaccines have arrived.

Meant for medical frontliners nationwide, the first vaccines are reserved for the medical warriors (500,000 through the Department of Health) and 100,000 (Armed Forces of the Philippines) or 600,000T total.The AFP’s estimates must be initial figures because last we check there is over 250,000 personnel of the military alone.

The country is not even on first base if this was a baseball game.

The keyword is “herd immunity”- the situation where people are so protected from the virus because enough people have been vaccinated. The statistical percentage accepted globally is 70 %. Excluding those below 18-year-olds (who are exempted), the herd immunity for the Philippines should be about 70 million Filipinos and for Bohol about 900,000 Boholanos vaccinated.

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Since one needs at least two vaccine doses, the requirement is roughly for the Philippines is to get at least 140 million doses and Bohol about 1.8 million doses.

Therefore, the recent ones we got: 600,000 (donated by Sinovac China) and about 500,000 (AstraZeneca) or a total of 1.2 million doses is just a speck in the ocean- what is there to rejoice?

The latest pronouncements of the government are that the country will likely be able to get 2 million more from the Chinese manufacturers (soon), 6 million from Janssen (a subsidiary of the American company Johnson and Johnson), 20 million (Moderna in May or June) and 30 million (Novavax-no date). That’s only about 58 million doses- and therefore, we are hardly “out of the woods” yet.

Even if the government was able to get loan lines of $1,2 Billion or about P60-Billion which is enough to purchase all our vaccine needs per the Department of Finance, the supply side is in question. Every nation wants to get a piece of the action and some nation-manufacturers would like to provide first for their own people before they export or donate to other nations, no matter how impoverished they may claim to be.

The reason we do not encourage people to throw caution to the wind is that immunization means about an average of 90% efficiency among the vaccines mentioned; which has a converse chance to still be infected 10% of the time.

The time is approaching where the world will be divided into “haves” and “have nots” – in terms of vaccination. 

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But the vaccines will only strengthen the ability of the immune system to resist or kill the virus when they attack- nothing more. It does not mean that once you become a “have”- you can rush to the world, dropping face masks, shields, alcohol and social distancing and mingle with the “have nots”.

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Keep the buzz word in mind- “herd immunity”- or 70% of the infectable population must be vaccinated.

Besides, there are confirmed traces in the Philippines now tracing their origins from virus variants out of the UK and Africa, no one can tell whether they can be stopped on their tracks by the current list of vaccines being rolled out. 

This seems to be one of the reasons why there has been a recent upsurge in the number of reported cases from February 25-March 4. NCR new infections have risen to 900 a day, a 50% rise from a month ago.  Nationwide, recent day reports point to over 3,000 new cases, much higher than the recent weeks

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Many hospitals in the NCR are beginning to feel the pinch again. The war is hardly over.

Thus, the likely month when some of the critical areas will be declared. MECQ will be in May. Even the cinemas in the malls in the NCR (who are allowed 25% capacity reopening) are not too keen to jump into the equation. It is either, the 25%  capacity will not go past their “breakeven” business thresholds or they do not want to contribute to the worsening of the recent upsurge.

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In the case of Bohol, vaccination will start shortly through supplies from Cebu City.- that is excellent news. The other good news going for the province is that in a recent survey of station dyRD, Boholanos who are now open to vaccination skyrocketed to a high of 75% from a dismal low of 38% from previous surveys.

Remember the buzz phrase again- “herd immunity”- or how will a community reach the herd immunity level of 70% if less than 75% of the infectable populace are willing to cooperate- and there is no law that can compel anyone to get his dosage- or prevent one from choosing his brand to use? We still live in a democracy,  with its warts and all.

Much of this turn-around we can attribute to strong statements of our two bishops Abet Uy and Daniel Parcon who publicly dared the faithful to follow their commitment of having themselves vaccinated. The word of the “men of the cloth” register highly in the psyche of this very religious congregation of Boholanos.

Likewise, for the scientific-minded, the bold statement of Dr. Jeffrey Ong, president of the (BMS) Bohol Medical Society that he will have himself injected “with the first available vaccine” was utterly reassuring. These separate but jointed statements from the religious and medical sectors were a strong counterpoint against the negative sayers.

As if on cue, the local government reacted to the first fresh news about the vaccine arrivals (no matter how insignificant against the total requirements) by also loosening the stringent protocols that already placed the already mangled Tourism industry into barnacles of restraint.

For instance, the “expensive and boring” quarantine is no longer required and there will be no re-testing of persons (upon their arrival here) as long as they are holders of the ” negative Covid” results from their places of origin. This is the right time to finally bring balance to the industry which has been Bohol’s flagship industry for the longest time.    

Needless to say, P10-billion in economic losses and thousands of unemployed and hundreds of closed businesses are nightmares we want to wake up from.  Resorts and transport businesses are just two of them.

No, we don’t expect tourists from the rich nations of Europe, the Chinese and the Koreans to come in droves tomorrow. But we certainly think Bohol has a market for Filipino tourists hunting for bargain vacations. If figures are to be believed, Panglao is now back to 300 tourist arrivals per day and we should all welcome that piece of good news- the only one in a very long time.     

As to the corruption side, many highly placed and well-meaning medical professionals in the metropolitan cities are aware that some hanky panky has been going on- taking advantage of the confusion caused by this pandemic. But they said in their social posts, they will let this pass for the moment and cooperate with the vaccination program. 

But once the crisis is over, they still want equitable justice to be meted out on the vultures of our society whose eyes widen twice their normal size when they see opportunities to make illegal hay and some who have made their public offices -their own business operating centers. That is a fair warning from this respectable sector of society.

As for now, of course, we should all smile that some vaccines are here. But vigilance is still the price of final victory- towards our goal of “herd immunity”.

For comments: email to dejarescobingo@yahoo.com or bohol-rd@mozcom.com

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