POSTSCRIPT / December 10, 2020 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Pinay administers first vaccine in UK

FOCUSING on the Filipina nurse who administered Tuesday the first shot in the world’s first COVID-19 mass vaccination is the nearest we could force our involvement in that historic event in the United Kingdom.

By the most optimistic estimate, however, it would be next year yet when the Philippines can start its own mass vaccination. While the more alert countries have scrambled to close deals to buy the vaccines, we were busy chasing protesters, hounding critics, among other priorities.

The first UK recipient of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was 90-year-old (she turns 91 next week) grandmother Margaret Keenan who was injected at 6:31 a.m. by Pinay nurse May Parsons at her local hospital in Coventry, 151 km northwest of London.

Parsons, who is from the Philippines, has worked in the UK National Health Service for the last 24 years and been at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire since 2003.

Tuesday, dubbed by some as V-Day, saw the rollout of the first of 800,000 doses of the vaccine. The UK expects up to four million more by the end of December. First recipients are people aged 80 years and older, and health and care personnel.

As the day’s inoculation went on, the UK government reported 616 more people had died within 28 days of a positive test, raising their total deaths to 62,033.

Watching Keenan on TV being injected by Parsons, we were struck by the absence of officials around them. If that were in Manila, the frame would have top executives and the ubiquitous presidential aide crowding around for the photo opportunity.

We were also waiting for Keenan to grimace or cringe as the needle pierced her upper arm, but she did not flinch. Parsons the nurse must be that experienced, we thought, reminded of when we had our flu shot in late October and hardly felt the injection.

Keenan will receive a booster shot in 21 days. A former jewelry shop assistant, she retired four years ago. She has a daughter, a son and four grandchildren. She came from Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, and has lived in Coventry for over 60 years.

She told BBC News: “I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19, it’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year.

“I can’t thank May and the NHS staff enough who have looked after me tremendously, and my advice to anyone offered the vaccine is to take it – if I can have it at 90 then you can have it too!”

Parsons said: “It’s a huge honor to be the first person in the country to deliver a COVID-19 jab to a patient, I’m just glad that I’m able to play a part in this historic day. The last few months have been tough for all of us working in the NHS, but now it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Among the lingering questions about mRNA (messenger-RNA) vaccines such as the Pfizer/BioNTech variety, is: While it may protect the person inoculated, will it prevent his passing on the virus to others?”

An mRNA vaccine transfects molecules of synthetic RNA into human cells. Once inside the cells, the RNA functions as mRNA, reprogramming the cells to make the foreign protein that would normally be produced by the pathogen, or by cancer cells.

 Rattan measuring sticks or batons?

IF A COP swings a rattan stick or baton at you, he’s just measuring how close you are. That is how Malacañang explains why policemen assigned to crowds and protest marches, and sometimes to round up or disperse them, would be wielding yantok (rattan) batons.

In a media briefing, presidential spokesman Harry Roque sought to deflect criticisms against a reported order to the police to use rattan sticks on individuals in street marches who do not follow COVID-19 protocols on keeping a safe distance.

Police Lt. Gen. Cesar Binag, PNP deputy chief for operations, reportedly said that yantok sticks would be used “to hit hardheaded individuals” as health officials warn of a possible surge in COVID-19 infections after the holidays.

The Philippine National Police denied there was such an order. It said it was PNP chief Debold Sinas who had ordered the use of the yantok sticks or batons.

The Commission on Human Rights, among other groups and individuals assailing the use of rattan sticks or batons on quarantine violators, said that was not the best way to address the pandemic.

Roque clarified that the rattan sticks were being carried by policemen to measure social distancing. He added: “You can’t use that to hit someone because that is not allowed by the law or even within PNP’s regulations.”

The police started to use the rattan sticks, such as in swarming crowds at Divisoria where pre-Christmas shoppers have been flocking, after Chinese anti-riot policemen in Hong Kong were noticed to be using similar batons on street protesters.

Are they batons or sticks? The sizes and the intent of the policemen will matter. If the yantok is ¼ inches thick and 36-39 inches long, it could pass off as a measuring stick, especially if it has inch or centimeter markings along the length.

But if it is about an inch thick and 28-32 inches long, it is more of a baton that can be used as a weapon for defense or attack – much like the rattan poles used in arnis de mano, a native martial arts form.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 10, 2020)

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