Don’t panic. Amid the raising back to Alert Level-3 of the entire national capital region (NCR), telltale signs indicate the resurgence of new cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection in the country’s capital region is not as severe. Many of our health and medical experts believe the ramped up anti-COVID vaccination activities of the many of the Metro Manila local government units (LGUs) made the big difference from our previous experience with the past pandemic surges.
However, COVID-19 infection remains a major public health risk, especially for us vaccinated people. This is because the latest COVID-19 strain called as Omicron variant is more transmissible. It is less fatal though than the Delta variant. However, both Delta and Omicron variants can still infect even to those vaccinated already, and a few cases also had booster shots even.
Based from the established hospital cases, people with anti-COVID vaccines suffer mild to moderate flu-like diseases from Omicron variant infection, if there are no comorbidities to complicate the patient’s medical condition. So the Department of Health (DOH) has been keeping a close tab to ensure the health care system would not be overwhelmed anew by any surge like we had experienced during the third quarter of last year.
We supposedly have enough supply already of anti-COVID vaccines of various brands bought and donated to the Philippine government. In fact, we just had national vaccination campaigns twice held simultaneously all over the country.
From among the LGUs, the Metro Manila local chief executives are the most efficient ones in the deployment and administration of free anti-COVID jabs in their respective jurisdictions. As a humanitarian gesture and policy all over the NCR, even non-residents are given free anti-COVID jabs whether they registered online or walk-in only.
Thus, it is quite ironic that NCR was again placed under higher restrictions at Alert Level-3 because of rising COVID-19 cases anew. As it is turning out, there are still many Filipinos and other people who still refused to get vaccinated. For whatever reasons they may have – be it religious beliefs to the less mundane and idiotic alibis – these unvaccinated individuals are the walking time bombs for all of us vaccinated ones.
This is the major challenge for both the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) and its implementing arm, the National Task Force (NTF) on government’s anti-COVID responses. Actually, it should be a no-brainer for the IATF and the NTF because the templates are already set.
For starters, the IATF must deploy more supply of the anti-COVID vaccines to areas outside the NCR.
As of the latest report of NTF chief implementer and designated “vaccine czar” Carlito Galvez, the country now has an inventory of more than 210 million doses of anti-COVID vaccines procured by the Philippine government. About 74.1 million doses were donated under the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Covax Facility. And those purchased by the private sector and the various LGUs all over the Philippines acquired 22.5 million doses.
Of this total, 109 million doses were already administered as of Jan. 3 this year, according to the Department of Health (DOH). Further breakdown of this total, the DOH reported, 57.18 million were given on first dose while 50.15 million were given for second dose. And so far, 1.96 million doses were used for booster shots.
The balance of over 100 million doses are presumably are still up for deployment. Given the life span for the efficacy of these anti-COVID vaccines – averaging from three to six months — it is imperative these life-saving vaccines be deployed at the soonest possible time.
All what remains for President Rodrigo Duterte to do is to use the political capitals he has solidly kept up to now to adopt even the most unpopular decisions. This includes, among other new anti-COVID measures, the possible adoption of a national mandatory vaccination. This might be the best weapon to nip in the bud the brewing new surge of the COVID-19 pandemic across the country.
Having been the Mayor of Davao City for over 23 years, the President could take the cue from the Metro Manila local chief executives. All of the NCR Mayors took the bullet last Monday when they all agreed to issue and sign the Metro Manila Council (MMC) ordinance to limit the movements NCR-wide of unvaccinated people. MMDA chairman Benhur Abalos Jr. signed MMC Resolution No.22-01 last Jan.3 in his capacity as the IATF head at the NCR.
In a legal opinion aired over radio interview yesterday, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra advised each of the Metro Manila LGUs must still pass though their own ordinances to implement the letter and spirit of the MMC Resolution. “The MMDA resolution by itself is not legally effective,” Guevarra pointed out.
But an executive fiat by President Duterte could suffice while the Philippines remains under this public health emergency.
In the last six months of his administration, President Duterte need not worry about losing popular support. The latest Pulse Asia opinion polls done from Dec.1-6 last year showed the President enjoys a 72% approval rating. Only Senate president Vicente “Tito” Sotto III came very close second to President Duterte at 71% approval rating. The opinion polls were taken nearly two weeks before the Chief Executive withdrew his candidacy from the Senate race. Perhaps, his approval rating might even go higher after backing out from the May 9, 2022 elections. Who knows?
Definitely, it can be considered a blessing in disguise that the 76-year-old President Duterte decided to return to his original plan to just retire from politics. This should give him more time and pay attention to spend the remaining time of his office to end the COVID-19 pandemic in our country.
This could be his most important legacy in office to get our country out of this public health crisis before he steps down in June, 2022.
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