Vaccination against the coronavirus resumed in the city on Monday, May 3, after a one-week pause when we ran out of vaccines. It is going to be a recurring problem; the national government’s procurement has come in trickles and, as lawyers are wont to say, quoting a landmark Supreme Court decision, the spring cannot rise higher than its source.
We reportedly received 5,000 additional doses late last week. Earlier, we were told that at least 28,000 senior citizens have indicated their intention to get inoculated but only about 5,000 have so far received their first shot, meaning 23,000 remain unserved. Now do the math. How many more will be left waiting for their turn after this week’s round of “rollout”?
Note that the 28,000 who registered for the vaccination program consisted only a third of the city’s senior population of about 84,000, based on the number who claimed their financial assistance a month ago. How are we going to deal with the rest of them, the more vulnerable to Covid-19?
It’s a huge problem. The city’s hands are tied. Despite President Duterte’s announcement that local government units may also purchase their own vaccines, in reality it is only the national government that has the capacity to do that. That is why last week Mayor Edgar Labella was begging Manila for a fair share of the vaccine.
By that he may have meant getting enough number to keep our vaccination program ongoing without interruption. Alas, that seems unlikely, again because of the national government’s own limited stockpile.
The situation is ironic, given how massively we have campaigned for the people to get their anti-Covid shots. The persuasion efforts obviously worked, although perhaps not in the level that would assure the attainment of herd immunity.
The danger is that those who volunteered to be vaccinated may have been discouraged by the long wait and have changed their minds by the time enough vaccines are already available. Obviously, we cannot force them to receive the shots, not even for purposes of new or continued employment.
It used to be that employers were authorized, even mandated, to adopt such measures as would promote a safe and healthful workplace. Thus, when PAL decreed that cabin attendants should not be overweight, the Supreme Court held that it was a valid exercise of the power to keep the workplace and the passengers safe.
However, a rather innocuous provision in the Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 says that vaccination cards shall not be considered mandatory for educational and employment purposes. So goodbye, safe workplace?
But that scenario (of forcing someone to get the vaccine) is too far away yet. Let’s take care first of those who want to be vaccinated on their own free will. That includes those who have already received their first dose. Are they assured that they can have their second dose as scheduled? Or is postponement inevitable?