Good jab, bad jab

Published September 21, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Raymundo W. Lo, MD, FPSP


The COVID vaccination program is now underway. Vaccine shortage is acute though we’ve been promised at least 61 million doses are coming shortly. Assuming adequate vaccine supply, our next concern will be the roll-outs with vaccination activities. As a volunteer vaccinator, I have seen the processes of the vaccination activities and it certainly leaves much to be desired.

Aside from venues that are crowded, we need to fix the way we vaccinate in times of pandemics. The DOH in its usual bureaucratic way has made it much harder to get vaccinated than it should be. Paperwork must be minimized. Right now, we have a registration process, an interview with a health professional, filling up a questionnaire and signing a consent form. Vaccinees spend unproductive hours lining up and waiting. Doctors and nurses who volunteered are reduced to mere clerks with banal chores of interviewing and taking vital signs. DOH and LGU health workers are busy overseeing the whole process and not taking direct participation in the task at hand. They even have the nerve to tell us doctors what we can and can’t do when vaccinating.

Let’s make the process faster and easier if we are to rapidly ramp up our herd immunity or we will be wallowing in this mess for more months or years unnecessarily.

In other countries, all you have to do is register online, be scheduled, and show up at the date and time assigned. You show proof of identification,  are given the shot by a pharmacist or other trained personnel and asked to wait for 15 minutes. No fuss, no muss. That’s how they were able to vaccinate 200 million people in a span of six months.

We only have less than 20 million vaccinated fully and another few million with first shots. We started initial vaccinations in March this year, so we are running at less than 3 million per month vaccination rate. If we are targeting 70 million fully vaccinated Filipinos, it will take another year, maybe more if vaccine supply is a problem. But we have been vaccinating mainly in big cities where we have more staff to rely on to achieve this rather dismal vaccination rate. What more if we have to go to our rural areas where there are few doctors and nurses to do it?

How do we make it easier? First eliminate unnecessary paperwork. I suspect all these precautions stem from the unpleasant experience with the Dengvaxia furor and the DOH wants to avoid a similar situation. But no matter what you do, if it’s politicised, they will find a way to undermine and dispute your efforts. Let’s not let that get in the way of immunizing as many as possible. Remember, THIS IS A PANDEMIC!

Vaccination is voluntary. The fact that you showed up is proof you want to be vaccinated. Do we get legal consent from parents of children we vaccinate? No! It a social contract of mutual agreement and confidence. Why require consents that end up gathering dust in some warehouse? We’re even required to get another consent for the second dose. Another waste of time and effort.

Vaccinees are asked to answer a questionnaire  that’s not easy for them to understand and the questions are framed for a double negative answer. That confuses a lot of people, even health professionals. Besides, nothing in the questionnaire no matter how answered will absolutely defer a person from being given the shot. Why bother at all? I would rather have a vial of epinephrine with me all the time than all the interviews.

DOH and LGUs require many doctors and nurses to be present at the vaccination site or else they will cancel the activity. But who’s to benefit from these as the DOH and LGUs are going for vaccination targets. We’re just helping as volunteers for heaven’s sake. This is simply a waste of time and effort by them who are already exhausted from all they do caring for COVID patients. Vaccination is not a highly specialized skill. Let’s train more people to give jabs and reserve the doctors and nurses for the more important tasks. These trained personnel can then be deployed in far-flung areas to give our more isolated folks their jabs. The same DOH and LGU staff that are sent to the vaccination activity should be able to give these shots themselves, for crying out loud. One nurse or doctor per activity will be enough to make sure an epinephrine shot can be given in the very rare event of an anaphylactic shock.

Come on Philippines, let’s do it!