February 5, 2023

VIGILANCE REQUIRED ON COVID VACCINE ROLL-OUT

The optimism we have for 2021 should be coupled by enhanced public vigilance on how the government responds with the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic that continue to make things uncertain in every sector of society.
As the nation transitions to the new normal, public vigilance is required on how huge government funds are used in a bid to mitigate the further spread of the virus and arrest the ever-increasing Covid-19 cases and deaths in the country.
Of late, news on the inoculation of some members of the Presidential Security Group with a Covid-19 vaccine that is yet to be registered by the country’s drug regulatory body has set a precedent on how lapses will be committed once the vaccine finally enters our shores.
It saddens us when this government never learned its lesson from the public condemnation against selective testing for the rich and powerful during the early months of the pandemic. This time, there is public uproar due to selective vaccination involving some Cabinet officials and uniformed personnel.
The decision of State forces to have themselves immunized with an unauthorized vaccine in violation of the Food and Drugs Law shows how they can wantonly disregard rules. This action also makes us fearful that when the government finally closes a deal with a Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer and the Food and Drugs Administration allows its use in the country, a lot of those in power and those close to the powers-that-be will ignore the protocols that have been set on who should be inoculated first.
Based on the list of priorities agreed upon by the Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, health care providers, indigent senior citizens, other senior citizens, and indigent groups are the top priorities for the immunization. Military personnel only come after these groups.
If we remain indifferent and allow people in government to violate the Covid-19 vaccination protocols this early, we might not be able to protect the interest of the most vulnerable groups when the vaccine finally arrives, just as how those involved in the P15-billion PhilHealth fund mess remain unpunished until now.
Our call for vigilance does not mean we are encouraging the public to defy the government; our call is only for citizens to scrutinize the actions or inactions of their political leaders and demand full accountability from them whenever they commit deeds inimical to public interest.
We hope that when the Covid-19 vaccine reaches our shores by March, as what the government expects, those listed as priorities by the DOH and the IATF will get their doses first and not those with power and money. This, we can only realize if we continue our vigilance and pressure our political leaders to do the right and just things during these extraordinary times – to prioritize public welfare over personal interests.
Our continued vigilance will help keep our optimism for a better year ahead because while it may be true that the Covid-19 vaccine will be rolled out, it will not cure bad governance.