Published July 10, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Tonyo Cruz


Tonyo Cruz
Tonyo Cruz

Thanks to fellow city residents, health workers, and the local government for making this possible: On Friday, July 9, I got my second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a Quezon City public school where I also received the first dose 28 days earlier.

Mayor Joy Belmonte deserves credit for the QCProtektodo vaccination program: As of July 8, it has administered 921,399 total doses — 683,232 with their first dose, and 238,167 for second dose.

These figures are 40 and 14 percent, respectively, of the city’s vaccination target of 1.7 million. More could be done and more people eagerly wait to be vaccinated.

The city’s barangay-assisted registration complemented  eZConsult, an outfit connected with Big Pharma, which has repeatedly failed and crashed because of its puny and underwhelming capacity.

Last I heard, the city unveiled its own QC Vax Easy system for online assisted-registration, mainly because of eZConsult’s inability to provide adequate service to the country’s biggest city in terms of population.

According to the QCProtektodo website, the city is currently hiring more health workers to help in the vaccination program.

The more health workers the city hires, the faster the jabbing program and more people could be vaccinated. It would solve the apparent problem of shortage of health workers that result in them being overworked and also the long waiting times and long lines at vaccination centers.

Residents and workers of Quezon City are not only eager to be vaccinated. They are fully cooperative and patient. I’ve seen it at the public school where I twice got  jabbed. The long lines and the late starts did not deter anyone. People practiced social distancing as much as the space could provide, and they came prepared with pens, water and alcohol.

Mayor Belmonte can improve QCProtektodo by fully digitizing and connecting the registration processes — be it barangay-assisted, eZConsult or QC Vax Easy — to the actual vaccination.

This means that the two forms — Health Screening Form and Informed Consent Form — could both be filled at the barangay or online, and then digitized, ahead of the actual vaccination. The forms could be improved to give people precise instructions on what parts to fill out. If forms are digitized, a person would only need to bring their Vaccination Cards and QR Codes.

Digitizing the forms would entail additional costs. But the benefits surely outweigh these costs: forms and records could be securely stored and accessed. Record-keeping would be faster and more accurate, be it for the health workers assigned at vaccination centers or for the city’s health department.

The city should also do more to reciprocate the people’s willingness to be vaccinated and their discipline in booking appointments.

If the city announces that vaccination centers open at 8:00 am, then they should open at 8:00 am. Maybe earlier, but not later.

If the city books a resident for an 8:00-9:00 am schedule, that schedule should be respected. They should be served ahead of those who booked 9:00-10:00 am or 10:00-11:00 am appointments.

Right now, the queues don’t appear to consider the booking schedules. They are not checked, whether at the queue or at the first step/station. This is a disincentive to people obeying the rules and procedures, and who may have other important things to do.

Digitizing the forms and the bookings, and connecting these to the vaccination centers could help the frontline staff come up with better ways to handle the influx of people at vaccination centers.

I’m also sure that if Mayor Belmonte calls on them for assistance, the city’s many information technology and information security experts could “hack” the QC Vax Easy online assisted-booking service, and make it better. Friends say it is like Manila’s vaccination registration system: Upon signing up, a resident would be issued a reference number and would have to wait for the city to assign a vaccination date and venue.

QC Vax Easy could be modified to allow residents to book appointments on their own. Done right, it would render eZConsult totally unnecessary, help the city better manage the vaccine supplies, consider the people’s chosen schedules, and also reuse QC Vax Easy platform for future programs.

We can only hope that the national government obtains and gives more vaccines to local governments, like Quezon City and Manila, to roll out.

Everyone has to do their part: The national government should obtain the vaccines. Local governments should strive to improve mass vaccination programs to jab more arms quickly. People should not only sign up to get vaccinated, but also support health workers, provide feedback to local governments, and hold the national government accountable.