‘The one that’s right in front of you’

Published April 18, 2021, 12:00 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng



Philip Cu Unjieng

Perusing the social media posts of the week, I was struck by how so many were decrying the lack of any National Vaccination Plan or recovery plan for the sorry state in which this recent unabated upsurge in COVID-19 cases has left us in. There were also fearful posts reporting the number of NCR hospitals and medical care centers whose COVID wards were full, and unable to accept any new patients. It got to the point where we were now being invited to all these webinars about caring for your COVID patient at home – a tacit surrender to the fact that our health care system was tottering at the very edge of system overload.

Amidst all this disheartening news, I was happy to read about how LGU’s were up and about, initiating their own localized vaccination programs. Especially pertaining to the NCR, there was an overflow of encouraging reports about these LGU’s. San Juan for example, under Mayor Francis Zamora, began their vaccinations March 30th. A number of friends I have from Makati, Manila, Parañaque, Pasay City, Taguig, and Quezon City were extolling their respective mayors, and how the LGU’s were doing their best in rolling out the vaccines and following established protocols diligently. Most front-liners had gotten their vaccines, and now the A2 (Seniors), and A3 (those with co-morbidities), were being scheduled.

Sure there were also those complaining of long lines and/or waiting time, but by and large, most of the threads I would follow were about whether it was SinoVac or AstraZeneca vaccines that were being administered. And funny enough, it was fairly split down the middle as to which brand was favored. If ever a vaccine passport would be enforced, SinoVac wouldn’t get us to Europe, as their passport seems to be entwined with AZ and the American brands of Pfizer and Moderna. On the other hand, there was the constant sniping about the blood clots that the AZ vaccine caused. And there was the perennial debate about which vaccine was better suited for seniors.

If the LGU’s are now taking the initiative, let’s give a shout out to the private sector that’s chipping in – doing so in any way that they can. From the private sector, I love how SM Supermalls, with the support of the Department of Health, have converted particular areas within their malls into safe and accessible vaccination centers for the LGU’s.

At the SM North EDSA Skydome, QC Mayor Joy Belmonte visits one of the city’s vaccination centers. (Quezon City Government)

There is an initial target of 70,000 individuals earmarked to be processed within these SM venues, which can be raised in number as the LGU’s roll out their programs, and more vaccines are made available. As of the time I’m writing this, 12 malls have been identified; SM North EDSA’s Skydome, SM Aura, SM City BF Paranaque, the SM’s of Rosario, Olongapo, Pulilan, Marilao, Masinag, San Mateo, Trece Martires, Calamba and Tarlac.

While other malls prudently shut down to save on their operating expenses, we can laud SM for seeking ways to be relevant, and be an active part of the solution. It may not always make sense from a bottom line perspective; but it’s part of being one of the alleviating forces during these very unusual and challenging times.

Further to this, the SM group collaborated with the Philippine Red Cross, creating collection sites for drive-thru saliva RT-PCR tests; with more than 22,000 tested as of April 14. This is concurrently happening at 10 SM Malls; including Megamall, Fairview, Mall of Asia, Taytay, Puerto Princesa, Cebu, CDO, and Sucat.

A second collaboration with the Red Cross has SM Foundation donating mattresses, pillows, bedsheets and linens for the COVID-19 isolation wards at UP Diliman and Ateneo de Manila. Along with Adamson University, and De La Salle College of St. Benilde, these universities have converted some of their dormitories and classrooms into COVID wards. Due to the shortage of medical facilities as mentioned above, this offer from these schools is truly appreciated, and the SM Foundation is helping make these “wards” patient-ready.

Pinoy humor, irrepressible in this time of the quarantine doldrums and vaccination ‘fever’. (from Facebook feeds)

As to the burning question of which vaccine is the most ideal one to get. I personally love the answer of “The one that’s right in front of you!” That is inescapably the truth. It’s not like we’re some rich industrialized nation where our vaccination centers can hand you a menu, and ask which brand of vaccine you’d prefer; if you’d like it at room temperature, refrigerated, or at an ultra-freezing temperature. We’re at the point in the game, given the limited supplies of vaccine, that any modicum of safety is better than none at all.

For our family, for the community; getting a vaccine means being part of the solution, and not persisting as the problem – a walking time bomb of virus spread.