For God, country, and family . . .

For God, country, and family . . .

Dr. José Rizal’s execution by firing squad of Spanish soldiers on orders of the Spanish colonial government for the crime of rebellion on December 30, 1896, at Bagumbayan Field (Luneta Park) in Manila.

Adiós, Patria adorada, región del sol querida,
Perla del mar de oriente, nuestro perdido Edén!
A darte voy alegre la triste mustia vida,
Y fuera más brillante, más fresca, más florida,
También por ti la diera, la diera por tu bien.

(Farewell, my adored Land, region of the sun caressed,
Pearl of the Orient Sea, our Eden lost,
With gladness I give you my life, sad and repressed;
And were it more brilliant, more fresh and at its best,
I would still give it to you for your welfare at most.)

— Dr. Jose Protasio Rizal, Mi Ultimo Adios

Police officers are among those in the priority list of the government who will be inoculated with the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility under the World Health Organization’s Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization (GAVI), but the first to arrive in the country are those vaccines manufactured by Chinese drugmaker Sinovac Biotech, with which Filipinos have doubts regarding its efficacy and safety since very little information has been passed out by the Chinese pharmaceutical firm.

Aside from this, some health workers say that ‘inconsistent’ policies on the use of the Chinese-made vaccines which had been rolled out beginning March 1 (the current year) have stoked the flames of doubt which have led to front-liners asking the government whether they were truly being provided with safe and highly effective vaccines to fight the risk of infection and transmission of the novel coronavirus disease.

Employees of Lung Center of the Philippines have expressed they “are dismayed at the sudden turnaround in the decision of the government to inoculate health workers with (the vaccine from) Sinovac, sacrificing the health and safety of the health workers.”

Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) national president Robert Mendoza explained that most health workers were asking why the government proceeded to use CoronaVac (Sinovac), 600,000 doses of which were donated by China, even if the local Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not recommend it for health workers and the elderly as well as those with existing illnesses.

This despite health undersecretary Dr. Rolando Enrique ‘Eric’ Domingo, who also heads the FDA as director-general, receiving Sinovac’s CoronaVac shot at Philippine General Hospital on Monday, March 1, to go against his very own verdict (last February 22) that the vaccine is not the best one for health workers taking care of Covid-19 patients since a clinical trial in Brazil showed it had a barely passable 50.4 percent efficacy rate.

Health secretary Francisco Duque III, who was at Lung Center to oversee the start of the government’s vaccination program, refused the shot, invoking the FDA’s recommendation against its use for senior citizens like him—a very sorry excuse, we would say.

Even President Rodrigo Duterte has declined being inoculated, reasoning out that he was likewise a senior citizen and therefore ‘unqualified’ to get the shot from the vaccine he has been promoting for so long and coming from his ‘close friends’—the Chinese. It’s true about he being a senior, then we’re sure that members of his immediate family, particularly his daughter, incumbent Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and vice mayor Sebastian ‘Baste’ Duterte, Davao City District I representative Paolo Duterte, and their sister Veronica, are eligible to be vaccinated. But I believe they have opted to decline, too, despite the fact that if they agreed to the shot then they could have convinced many Filipinos that the Sinovac vaccines are safe and effective against Covid-19.

And experts from the interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) and the Department of Health Technical Advisory Group (DoH-TAG) did not support the recommendation not to give CoronaVac to health workers but supported the rest of the scope of the FDA’s emergency use authorization (EUA).

The immunization group acknowledged the FDA’s position that “the current data does not support” the use of the Sinovac vaccine among health workers, but nevertheless recommended giving them the “autonomy” to decide “in the absence of any other available Covid-19 vaccine.”

The government’s priority list was also set aside, as several government officials, including vaccine procurement chief Carlito Galvez Jr., were among the first to be given CoronaVac shots that were supposed to be only for health workers and uniformed personnel.

The Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against Covid-19 (HPAAC) earlier urged the government to hold off the rollout until the Sinovac vaccine could be evaluated by the Health Technical Assessment Council (HTAC), an independent advisory body to the DoH.

Mendoza revealed that the “ever-changing” government pronouncements betrayed the government’s “insistence” to use the Sinovac vaccine despite its low efficacy. In this he also noted that “there are better options for vaccines with a higher efficacy rate.

“Do they really want us to think that there are kickbacks with Sinovac?” the AHW president queried.

In reaction to this, Senator Joel Villanueva said that the government could best honor the health workers by giving them choices of what vaccine to use.

Even Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto had supported his colleague’s view, saying that it was the government’s duty to broaden the source of vaccines.

In another concern, lady senator Grace Poe, who chairs the Senate public services committee, urged the administration to include drivers and other workers in the transportation industry in its priority groups as their services were key to the country’s economic recovery.

Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian disclosed that while the country was grateful for the recent vaccine donation from the Chinese government, local health authorities should also inform Filipinos that the ‘bulk’ of Covid-19 vaccines were expected from the global procurement pool COVAX.

The Philippines is reportedly one of 92 poor countries eligible to receive free vaccines from the COVAX facility under the World Health Organization’s Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization (GAVI). It is reportedly qualified to receive 5.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and 117,000 ‘subsidized’ doses of the Pfizer shot.

For her part, Senator Risa Hontiveros also urged the government to make sure there would be ample supplies of vaccines for all Filipinos.

And what about our policemen . . . do they, too, have doubts about the government’s vaccine rollout? I’m sure they wouldn’t say a things since they are mandated to follow their commander-in-chief, who has espoused that CoronaVac or not, men in the armed services, including the Philippine National Police, should be vaccinated as soon as possible—and they may yet truly perform their oath of dying for the country as most of our heroes have done in the past—for God, country, and family. (AI/MTVN)

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