Many will die while awaiting the vaccine
AS the administration reported Friday, the 2.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine ordered from pharma firm AstraZeneca may arrive in the second quarter of next year, with additional stock coming later.
Half of the 2.6 million doses are reserved for personnel of the private firms that paid for the entire lot, and the other half (1.3 million) will be given to public health frontliners, and soldiers and policemen with their families.
Whatever is left goes to the “poorest of the poor”, President Duterte says, referring to the millions of “ayuda” (help/subsidy) recipients, those in the economic fringes that Vice President Leni Robredo has described as hanging by the “laylayan” (hem) of society.
When the vaccines arrive next year, the 1.3 million doses will not be administered in one blow, because half of the stock (650,000) will be the first dose, with the second dose to be injected on the same recipients four weeks later.
QUESTION: What will the rest of the 100-million population do to survive while waiting for more vaccines to arrive during the three-to-five-year timetable?
How many will be infected — and how many will die — during the long wait for the vaccine that ideally should be administered promptly on at least 60 million (60 percent of the 100 million-plus population) Filipinos to achieve herd immunity?
Herd immunity revolves around the idea that if a sufficient number of people (at least 60 percent) in a community catch the virus, develop immunity and survive, they will be able to absorb the infection safely and become a barrier against its spreading.
While Filipinos are getting infected at the worrisome rate of more than 2,000 daily, is there a reliable program for curing or at least caring for the sick and mitigating the symptoms till their own immune system kicks in to save them?
We are still waiting to see or read a program to combat COVID-19 step by step till it weakens to a level as manageable as that of the seasonal flu. Is lack of funds holding this back?
We may have to flush out hidden lump sums in the national budget, go into a drastic reallocation of resources, to be able to raise local funds for the gargantuan expenses needed to tame the killer coronavirus.
Since seeking herd immunity is a massive and expensive endeavor, what else could be done during the long wait for enough vaccines? Some visible things being done by task forces are weekly meetings with President Duterte.
Another activity is the breaking up of protest groups on the pretext of enforcing the quarantine rule on keeping the prescribed social distance. The same rule, however, is usually not enforced on groups and individuals allied with the administration.
The public health system has also been testing, tracing and treating patients. As of Sunday (Nov. 29), it has tested 5,732,922 persons, or 52,034 per one-million of the population. Compare the numbers with those of Indonesia which has tested 5,655,692 persons, or 20,588 per one-million of its population. That neighbor is a good case study with demographics similar to those of the Philippines.
Testing would be a waste of time and resources, however, if the data gathered is not used for such followup measures as the systematic tracing, as well as the isolating and treating of infected persons and suspected carriers.
With herd immunity being too difficult to achieve, what could be attained painlessly is herd mentality – or doing what many others are doing — especially in our society notorious for its tendency to go gaya-gaya (copycat).
This propensity of many Filipinos to go where the herd is heading could be (if not already) exploited by communication operators mixing political agendas with COVID-19 control.
It would be disastrous if the general population is conditioned to waiting for the next “ayuda”. Care must be taken not to use the cash doles as a political tool to develop among the poor a habituation or dependency similar to drug addiction.
In the global tabulation on Sunday mentioned above, #27-Philippines had 429,864 cases and 8,373 deaths, fewer than the 534,266 cases and 16,815 deaths of #22-Indonesia, the topnotcher in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. (We use #00 in our ordinal numbering of 220 countries on the world list).
The #1-United States, which remains on top of the global chart, had 13,641,996 cases and 272,519 deaths as of Sunday. In contrast, #71-China had only 86,512 cases, or 60 cases per one-million population, and just 4,634 total deaths.
• How do Chinese keep infection down?
WITH no practical regimen being suggested by the health department as we wait for the vaccine that had been reserved for priority beneficiaries, we were tempted yesterday to pick up a video in the internet without verifying its authenticity or its being factual.
We invite health authorities to comment on its scientific basis or effectiveness. Here is our rough transcription of its audio:
“Even if Chinese households catch the COVID-19 infection, they do not seek medical attention. You know how they control the virus?
“The Chinese drink hot water six times a day. They also drink hot milk and tea four times a day. That’s not all. They inhale steam as many times a day as possible.
“When you do this for four days, the coronavirus that is within you slowly dies off, and you are cured on the fifth day.
“While the whole world is searching for a vaccine for COVID-19, this is how China has successfully controlled this virus. In big countries like the US, Spain, and Italy, so many have died because they overthought and tried to control the virus only through medication.
“You too can take the medications that doctors prescribe, but at the same time drink plenty of hot water and inhale steam as much as possible. Later get a PCR test done and you will find that it states negative.
“Medicine cannot totally kill this virus. The heat can. Have hot drinks as much as possible.” (Without endorsing it, we can forward the video via Viber to those who ask for it.)