Briones: Let there be light

On the go

A TOTAL of 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine donated by the Chinese government arrived in the Philippines on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021.

Although the Philippines is the last member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to receive the vaccine, the Sinovac shipment arrived just four days after the first batch of vaccines reached our neighbors Vietnam and Thailand.

Mind you, if Malacañang had agreed to allow clinical trials to be conducted here like Lao PDR and Indonesia did, we would have received vaccines in November and December, respectively. But it didn’t. And there’s no point in dwelling on what could have been.

The important thing is the first batch of vaccines is here and the government can start implementing its vaccination program. But can it?

There are more than 100 million Filipinos spread across the archipelago. So 600,000 doses will hardly make a dent.

And never mind that the bulk of the vaccines will go to 32 hospitals in Metro Manila under the prioritization framework approved by the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group. The remainder will be shared by the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City and the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.

Because, let’s face it, the 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine are reserved for medical frontliners who need them the most being in the forefront in the war against the highly infectious disease. For those who want them, anyway.

An official of the Philippine Medical Association had said its members would rather wait for the vaccine from the United States. Apparently, they want the “good” stuff because they can afford to choose. Actually, the government gave health care workers the “right of first refusal after an informed choice.”

Well, good for them.

To quote Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, the airplane carrying the donated vaccines on Sunday was a symbol of “hope and the light in the very dark chapter in our history,” while Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella described it as “a welcome development that we have been hoping for in the fight against the coronavirus.”

In the meantime, the rest of the country will just have to wait. There has been no word yet when the government will roll out the vaccines, whatever their country of origin.

This was confirmed by the acting head of the Cebu City Health Department, who said more vaccines will soon be arriving but he has no idea when the vaccination program will start.

I for one am very optimistic that it will be sooner than later. After all, general elections will be held next year. Some officials will be moving heaven and earth to ensure that everyone will get injected with the vaccine by then.

After all, they care. Really.


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