April 14, 2024

ACHIEVING HERD IMMUNITY IN THIS HIGHLAND REGION

The generally smooth rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination program in the Cordillera a week after its allocation from the first batches of donated Sinovac vaccines to the country reached this highland region should be giving us high hopes that soon, we will finally be getting over the worst part of the battle against the infection, a year after it was declared as a pandemic.
But more than anything, this step of immunizing the population from the disease should signal people to observe heightened caution and to fight complacency as we continue living with the Covid-19 while we wait for our turn to be vaccinated.
At this point, we should know that the struggle is still far from over.
We are comforted by the fact our health workers are now getting protection to be able to continue holding the frontlines, not only with Covid-19 patients but also with other health concerns and emergencies. And if the massive rollout cascades according to schedule, we will achieve herd immunity, which is the only way we could get back to our normal lives.
However, the global demand for Covid-19 vaccines limits our chances of getting the supply we need – both from donations and those purchased by local government units – for us to sustain the vaccine rollout until we attain herd immunity to stop transmission or at least make it less deadly.
The uncertainty of getting the next batches of vaccines, which include second doses for those already administered the first dose, will render the initial vaccination useless, as well as the preparations made by the Department of Health and LGUs if vaccines come in trickles, or if there will be no vaccines to administer in the first place.
It will also put behind the plan of the national government to vaccinate its entire population by 2023, which lags behind the target of some of its Southeast Asian neighbors.
The Asian Development Bank in a report late February also projected poor infrastructure and lack of cold chain facilities would slow down the Philippines’ vaccination program, which is indeed a challenge in rolling out whatever supplies of vaccine the country could get, aside from unpredictable weather, power outage with no backup power source, security concerns, inadequate transportation, and lack of personnel.
Some areas like Baguio City are capable of designating mega vaccination sites. But how about those areas that are difficult to reach or with residents who have no means of going to the vaccination center?
While the vaccination rollout in the Cordillera last week successfully reached the provinces targeting hospital and other health workers, it will be a different story once the turn of the larger population to get inoculated comes, especially in reaching those from hard-to-reach areas which is true not only for the region but for many rural and remote areas in the country.
On top of these, we have to contend with the number of Covid-19 cases in the country, which is continuously rising despite being under quarantine for a year now and despite the imposition of strict health measures and protocols.
What’s more alarming is that even now when we have seen light at the end of the tunnel and national recovery is within sight with the vaccines’ arrival, we might be missing our targets for lack of effective response to the limitations.
Since the country’s first Covid-19 case was recorded last year and in managing contagious diseases, we have proven that quarantine and health protocols are effective in preventing its transmission. But our cases ballooned to more than 600,000 with 12,671 deaths as of March 11.
This should have not been the case if since day one, everybody observed precautions and lapses were dealt with accordingly.
Sadly, a year after the pandemic, people still need to be accosted for not properly wearing face mask and shield, which, along with physical distancing and other minimum health standards, remain the best defense lines that are as effective as being vaccinated, with or without the vaccines.