Thursday, June 24, 2021

Editorial: Calibrating the vaccination

BE PREPARED. With the same vigilance they monitor citizens holding community pantries, the government should also have a systematic plan to carry out vaccination to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), which maximizes available resources and limits the risks and inconvenience to citizens. (SunStar file)

PLANNING and coordination with authorities will prevent good intentions from having unanticipated and unfortunate results.

Organizers of community pantries are required to coordinate with authorities to ensure the observance of health protocols among volunteers and beneficiaries.

Quoting Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and local chief executives, the Philippine News Agency (PNA) reported on April 26 that “well-organized community pantries will contribute to anti-Covid efforts.”

“We should calibrate our pandemic response,” said Duque in the same PNA report.

The calibration of responses through planning and coordination applies as well for the Philippine National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

The goal of achieving herd immunity through the vaccination of about 80 percent of Filipinos by 2023 is bedeviled by many factors, explained Pachico A. Seares on May 8 in SunStar Cebu.

Among the challenges are insufficient supply of vaccines procured by the national government, local governments’ failure to purchase vaccines, centralized and bureaucratic procurement of vaccines and global competition due to the high demand for limited vaccines.

These macro factors distill into a variety of complications locally. In Talisay City, resident Jason Baguia posted online about the approximately three-hour wait before his father, operated twice in the spinal column, could receive the Covid-19 vaccine on May 6.

The junior Baguia said his father went to the Lagtang vaccination center the previous day, only to be told that the vaccines had run out. Other travails enumerated by Baguia: registration starts only at 8 a.m. although citizens queue early (the elder Baguia came two hours before the registration officially began); first-come, first-served basis for administration (despite many citizens queueing again after being turned away when the vaccines ran out the previous day); registration is delayed by connectivity problems; and the Lagtang gym has no toilet, inconvenient and oppressive for those who are incontinent.

Responding to the criticism raised by the junior Baguia, Talisay City Mayor Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas Jr. passed the buck to the DOH, saying that the local government should receive a bigger allocation of vaccines, reported Justin K. Vestil on May 6 in SunStar Cebu.

In Lapu-Lapu City’s three vaccination centers, there was a low turnout of the elderly, which, according to Grace Mary Carungay, city epidemiological and surveillance unit officer, may be due to citizens’ difficulties in locating or traveling to the vaccination centers, reported Greggy C. Magdadaro, Jerra Mae J. Librea and Wenilyn B. Sabalo in SunStar Cebu on May 5.

Cebu City Health Department officer-in-charge Jeffrey Ibones observed that some of the elderly in Cebu City still hesitate to avail themselves of the vaccine, reported the same SunStar Cebu team.

Proving free tricycle rides to transport the elderly for their vaccination appointments and scheduling more persons with comorbidity to fill in the slots left unused by the elderly are the Lapu-Lapu and Cebu City governments’ respective responses to these setbacks in the vaccination program.

While many external and internal factors slow down the Philippine National Deployment and Vaccination Plan, local government units should devise and implement a system that maximizes existing resources and constraints while minimizing risk and inconvenience to its citizens.

The Pasig City Government operates four vaccination sites serving the elderly, as well as provides free shuttle rides so the elderly can go to their vaccination appointments. Mayor Vico Sotto requires citizens to register online; walk-in applicants are not accepted. Pasig also has limited vaccines from the national government, and has not yet purchased its own.

Good plans and implementation are, to echo Duque, the best ways to calibrate Covid-19 responses.


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