THE VIEW FROM RIZAL
“Are you worried over the raging controversies regarding anti-COVID 19 vaccines?”
Colleagues in the local government sector have been asking me this question via text over the past few weeks. They said they are worried that the issues supposedly hounding prospective vaccines against the deadly virus could torpedo the public’s aspiration for an effective response to the pandemic.
“Let’s keep our eyes focused on our preparation for the arrival of the vaccines,” has been our usual response.
Our point is this: the apparent controversy is part of our democratic processes and it is best to keep our eyes and efforts focused on laying the groundwork for an efficient mass vaccination program. Despite the issues being raised about the procurement of the vaccines by the national government, the good news is that many local governments have been busy laying that groundwork.
That groundwork requires funds, systems, programs, skills, and facilities.
It appears that funding the procurement of the vaccine may be the least challenging at this point. Antipolo City, for example, has already earmarked funds from its own coffers for this purpose.
There are other elements of the groundwork that would require bigger effort.
It needs systems for procuring the vaccines, receiving them as soon as they arrive, storing and protecting them, transporting them to vaccination centers, and keeping track of the inventory. The systems have to go through dry runs if they are to help achieve the target number for daily vaccinations. This is a huge task for local governments like Antipolo City being the one of the most populous cities in the country.
It requires programs for informing the public of the availability of the vaccine; of the options they have as to their preferred vaccine brands; as to how they may avail of the vaccine; the precaution and post-vaccination care they must undertake.
That groundwork includes developing and sharpening the skills of those who will be involved in the storage and distribution of the precious vaccine, of those who will administer it, and of those who will manage the various systems involved.
Then, there is the requirement for physical infrastructure: drop-off and receiving areas, cold storage facilities, vaccination centers and computer systems for storing data.
Many local governments have marked major progress in laying down the groundwork and their plans are now up for review and approval by the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
The efficient and effective groundwork may not be able to do the job by its lonesome.
The groundwork must include a transformation in the public’s outlook, attitude and behavior.
Among these, the most important are openness, collaboration, and trust.
Another piece of good news is that the spirit of bayanihan – collaboration at the local community level – is alive and well. An example is the massive support that the local government of Antipolo is getting from the private sector in that city. A private facility – a cold storage – has been made available for the vaccine types that would need to be kept at low temperature.
Right now, it looks like the biggest obstacle that the prospective vaccination program would meet is cynicism – serious doubt on the part of many that the vaccine would be safe and effective.
While the fear may have some bases, the fact remains that First World countries have already started using the available brands. Simple logic would suggest that if America and European countries are injecting the vaccine into the arms of their citizens, the vaccine must be safe and effective.
We hope that the political noise accompanying the country’s procurement of various vaccine brands would soon decline.
The country needs to move quickly on the procurement of the vaccine. If we do not act fast, we might find ourselves without one. At this point, some European countries are already worried about a so-called “vaccine nationalism” – a situation where vaccine producers of certain countries might refuse to share the vaccine with other countries to make sure that the citizens of their own countries are not deprived of a stable supply. In other words, this could mean, “every country for itself.”
The vaccine is the way out of this pandemic. We must get it into the arms of our countrymen soonest so we can give our economy its own booster shot.
Funds, systems, facilities, and relevant skills are being readied for the arrival of the much-awaited vaccine.
We must now help our people prepare not just their bodies but also their minds for the biggest inoculation drive that the country – and the world – has ever seen.
*For feedback, please email it to [email protected] or send it to Block 6 Lot 10 Sta. Barbara 1 cor. Bradley St., Mission Hills Subd., Brgy. San Roque, Antipolo City, Rizal.