POSTSCRIPT / February 28, 2021 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Sorry, I had myself vaccinated ahead

FINDING it too stressful waiting for the long-promised COVID-19 vaccines, surviving one day at a time while watching the grim reaper take, so far, more than 2.5 million humans on the planet, 12,250 of them Filipinos, I hurried on Friday to have myself vaccinated.

It had taken me days attending to the preliminaries, including the reading and signing of papers and answering questions on liabilities and possible red flags against taking the jab (like if I have had vaccinations, COVID-19 symptoms, allergies, morbidities, contacts with potential carriers, etc.).

With the nitty-gritty taken care of in advance, it took only some 10 minutes from the time I walked into the vaccination place, to their verifying my identity, checking my temperature, etc., to the injection of the serum in the deltoid of my upper left arm. (I didn’t even feel the needle, it was a good thing I had my iPhone to record the experience.)

Like the dozen or so other vaccinees in the commodious room, after the jab, I had to retire to a seat and wait 15 minutes to feel how my body took the vaccine. No one among us complained of nausea, fatigue, headache, chills, being feverish, and such signs of adverse reactions.

Having completed the procedure, I took the literature handed to me (plus an official-looking card recording my first shot and scheduling my booster second shot). I thanked the staff (nobody was in medical-type attire, only masks), adjusted my own face cover, sanitized my hands, and walked out the door.

While on the lookout for signs of delayed severe reactions, I’ve been also wondering at the unhurried efficiency – completing in just 10 + 15 minutes everything that had to be done for each vaccinee.

Unseen in the background, of course, was the prodigious documentation of pertinent details of every person/item involved in the monumental operation. The genius of building such a system and the competence to manage it are what I dream of for our country.

The Duterte administration talks of vaccinating 80 million adults, or around 80 percent of the population, thought to result in herd immunity. But if we don’t watch out, what could emerge is herd mentality or blind obedience.

Who among Duterte’s generals and mouthpieces has the genius to orchestrate a powerful symphony and distill it into one simple melody – of a man, one of 80 million, walking into a vaccination center with only his digitized ID or a magnetic beep card or a smartphone to start and close a process without a ton of paper clutter?

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. may want to trace the journey of the tired Filipino asking to be vaccinated against COVID-19. He could clear the route and open that path to 80 million others also wanting to have themselves injected with the serum.

That moment is just a fraction of the internal setting which is in turn only a part of a larger picture since the vaccine will still come from outside the country….

Now I’m beginning to understand why media colleague Mon Tulfo and others jumped ahead of the waiting crowd last year and had themselves vaccinated with what was then available in the underground — the Chinese vaccine developed by the state-firm Sinopharm.

In his column in another paper days ago, Mon said: “I now confess to the public: I had myself vaccinated — along with some government officials whose names I won’t mention here — with the Sinopharm vaccine last October. Some members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were also injected with the same vaccine.”

His liabilities, if any, still have to be sorted out since he happens to be a special envoy to China (if, as the presidential spokesman has noted, his six-month appointment has not expired). I won’t speculate on his accountability.

Mon has explained that he took the COVID shots to find out if the serum worked — because he wanted to be a local distributor of Sinopharm.

That he is still alive and well could be a clinical indication that in his case the Sinopharm drug has worked, so far. But as to whether or not his justification will save his neck depends on myriad things, including the infinite malleability of our legal and political norms.

The same law applied on practically the same set of facts could lead to two entirely different verdicts from two different judges hearing similar cases, if you know what we mean.

Today, with the promised arrival of 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines, we may be able to start catching up on our 650 million Southeast Asian neighbors who are already taking COVID-19 vaccines to slow down or stop the pandemic.

If plans do not miscarry again, no less than President Duterte reportedly wants to witness their arrival. (From the bleachers we hear some people shouting “Sunday ngayon, hoy, sarado ang bangko! With that irreverent noise, it seems we badly need “heard immunity.”)

The overall plan, we heard again from some generals, is to inoculate before the yearend around 80 million Filipino adults, or at least 80 percent of the population, to severely deny the coronavirus the carriers it needs to spread its deadly presence.

But vaccinated or not, some experts say that we would continue to be under the shadow of COVID-19 possibly for at least two more years — after which the pandemic could simmer down into localized epidemics and then for the coronavirus and its mutations to appear here and there in endemic outbreaks. Yes, like the seasonal continually mutating flu.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 28, 2021)

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