Behind the 8-Ball


FREEPIK

THE VALUE of time is diminished with a lack of foresight.

Test. Treat. Trace.

Underwhelming national testing capacity until mid-June 2020. Not enough rooms at the inn till mid-August. Delayed tracing ramp-up till eight months after pandemic onset.

The most severe lockdown strategy in Asia and counting.

Inexplicable rejection of the initial Pfizer vaccine offer, with multilateral funding, which went to Singapore. Confused National Government instructions that diminished private sector initiative to negotiate for limited supplies.

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Last to get vaccinated in Asia. (In the meantime the US has jabbed the equivalent of three-quarters of our population in three months.)

Finally — we have legislative proposals to get the proper anticipatory Infectious disease management system in place — creation of the Disease Prevention and Control Authority, the Medical Reserve Corps, the Magna Carta for barangay health workers. Catching up to the next pandemic, a global routine with a historically short-lived memory.

And now we have four months to logistically prepare for — hopefully — a deluge of vaccines in the second half of the year so we can inoculate maybe half our 70 million adult population — or stretching the case, all of it. Based on contracts out there, there is the initial 25 million from Sinovac dribbling in, 30 million Covavax from the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India, and Moderna orders of 13 million from the Philippine government and 7 million from the private sector.

Gutsy Indonesia launched in February with Sinovac, seeking to inoculate 181 million people in 15 months. They have an archipelago of 17,000 versus our 7,000 islands, a population 2.5 times ours. Why not? Why wait till 2023 to finish the process?

In the meantime, with the infectious South African, UK, and Brazilian variants here and counting, we need PhilHealth to pay its outstanding bills and the strategic PPE reserve to be replenished for hospitals to have the financial resources to ramp up treatment capacity again. Unfortunately, we don’t see a PhilHealth recap on the horizon yet.

The World Bank’s 2018 logistics performance index ranked the Philippines as 60th globally. This compares with Indonesia (46th), Malaysia (41st), Vietnam (39th), Thailand (32nd), Singapore (7th). Don’t forget to stock up as well on the needles and syringes necessary for the next vaccination step. Prices are rising, supply is short.

And remember, if you are worried about efficacy, and don’t trust the science enough when it comes to preventing anaphylaxis and death, nobody has said yet that you can’t have a third jab. Or trust that science will create modified vaccines for the next virus variant round. Ask Bill Gates.

Quo vadis, Pilipinas?

Jose Xavier B. Gonzales is the Chairman of The Medical City.

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