The national deployment and vaccination plan for COVID-19

Published May 1, 2021, 12:08 AM

by Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid


Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid

Many may not be aware of the government’s deployment plan for COVID-19 which was released early this year in January. It is a 134-page  document detailing the tasks of various agencies with the President,  the DOH and DILG and the IATF-EID  (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases and the National Task Force Against COVID-19, as lead agencies. With guiding principles such as shared responsibility national ownership, equal respect, human well-being, reciprocity, equity, legitimacy, its main tasks are to ensure that the targets are met.

The Deployment Plan has set criteria for evaluating the vaccine, prioritization mechanisms, negotiation processes with other governments and suppliers, clinical trials, procurement and financing,  resources and funding requirements.

It has a lot of useful information on dealing with a crisis situation and on  how to execute the vaccination plan.

But it seems like it is written primarily for funding agencies and the policy makers rather than for the primary users – the implementors, the frontliners, and the general public.

The length of the document makes reading and understanding the intent not too easy because of the technical language.

I wonder if the document had undergone editing – either by shortening or simplifying its language,  or dividing  it into  parts and aimed at each  of its audiences –  medical/health workers, barangay officials, community extension workers, media, evaluators, data management personnel, citizens-clients, policy makers,  etc.

Because the plan focuses on the adoption of an innovation – the vaccine, it realizes that it should communicate to the user, each citizen of the country the whos, whats, wheres, hows, and whys about the vaccine and the various processes effectively.  Thus, it is extremely important to build trust and confidence in the vaccine, and of course in our government and those in charge of administering the plan.

As the writers of the plan note, the document takes  a “Whole-of-Nation Approach, and demonstrates the  need for “synchronized, integrated efforts, strong leadership, and governance starting from the President.”

We realize that we have lagged behind our Southeast Asian neighbors in the acquisition of vaccines because of lack of proactive decision-making.

This cultural behavior reflected in postponing action or “mañana habit,” “bahala na” and  “lack of a sense of urgency” can perhaps explain why we have lost that sense of competitiveness that made us once upon a time, the “tiger” of Asia.

It’s been a month since the vaccination started in some regions of the country. But only 1.1 percent of the target had been achieved.  And only 60 percent of medical frontliners who were on the priority list had agreed to be vaccinated.

There is therefore the urgent need to address this lack of acceptance. Is it the vaccine or are there other reasons for non-adoption? The implementers must be able to identify such  problems.

In the Global Pandemic Status reports, CNN had noted that medical health workers in several countries are facing mental health problems and burnout issues. Doctors have expressed feelings of being betrayed and left inadequately supported.

Thus, in addition to the daily reports on number of COVID cases, recoveries, and deaths, other health issues can be presented together with the status reports on targets achieved. For example, how many from the Priority Groups – frontliners, OFWs, senior citizens, those with co-morbidities, etc. have been vaccinated?

As Peter Angelo V. Perfecto noted in his Inquirer column, although the country had administered 1.56 million doses as of April 20, 2021, a mere 1.11 percent of the target had been achieved. We need to inoculate 70.25 million Filipinos by year-end to achieve herd immunity. To achieve this, we need to do 20 million doses everymonth to achieve such a delivery rate. We just have three months to achieve such a delivery rate.”

But the response of medical expert,  Dr. Tony Leachon was that  we may not be able to reach herd immunity in six months.

Gordon Brown et al., (World View) cited  these realities on the international scene:

“The vaccine gap highlights a stark injustice. While G7 countries are on track to achieve 70 percent coverage by the end of 2021, some of the poorest countries will not reach that level before 2024…The lag in delivery cost some 12 million lives.”

In summary, what appears to be the more significant impact of the pandemic is that it had deepened existing social and economic  inequities and demonstrated as well critical  leadership and governance attributes  needed in facing a  crisis.

That it  is important to communicate the various decisions and processes taken by government in addressing the pandemic cannot be over emphasized. The deployment plan details the various steps needed in the vaccination plan. This is to ensure full awareness needed in any adoption of an innovation. But even more critical  is the need to document the process – the planning, execution, and evaluation so that it can provide learnings for us and future generations in facing other forms of crises in  the years to come.

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