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Promised Land or Cafeteria?

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BY THIS time, we’re supposed to be in Promised Land, not exactly flowing with the proverbial milk and honey, but with enough vaccine supply to get everybody jabbed against the invisible enemy, the virus, however, mispronounced, less understood and even trivialized.

Because, in the mind of no less President Duterte, who shares it with other leaders of the world thrown upside down by the pandemic bug, the vaccine is the ultimate solution to end the global health crisis, curse, if you will. Never mind if the Chinese brand has a much lower efficacy rate than other non-Chinese brands.

What is available is the best there is, so parrots no less than the controversial head of the country’s health department, taken of out of context from the mouth of the United States top infectious disease expert, Dr Tony Fauci.  Fauci’s statement was premised on the availability of branded vaccines with higher efficacy rates. Of course, the Chinese vaccine was never considered, much less approved.

In the poor Pinoy’s setting, no such choice since only Sinovac is available and is on limited supply, part of it courtesy of the Chinese goodwill, the other, the result good marketing (diplomatic) skill.  In other words, part of it is free, the rest is for a price. At what price, nobody knows really for sure. It’s as ambiguous as the government’s approach to stopping the virus. There’s suspicion  going around the grapevine that territorial rights of the Philippines in the South China Sea may already been compromised by the vaccine diplomacy.

Although, the maverick Delfin Lorenzana seems to disabuse the notion by his latest strong words to China that those militia ships tied to one another in the Julian Reef be gone at once.

While other countries, even those on the same category, if not less, as the Philippines, are ramping up their vaccination effforts. They are going by the thousands a day,  we’re lagging behind – no Tagalog pun there—by a few hundreds.

The problem is not our willingness; it’s our means.

Former Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio has exposed the real problem. For all the announcements that the government has negotiated millions of doses of various brands, not a single contract has been signed yet. Ergo, there not a single vial of vaccine that will materialize in the foreseeable future. Why? Because there’s no money to buy them. If you ask Carpio and other critics, the problem goes beyond money. It maybe competence. The Peter Principle must be right: the higher you go, the dumber you get.

In other words, the Promised Land is all talk. Maybe not a lie, but something close to it. The fact of the matter, Carpio bared, is that loans are being negotiated left and right with international banks to fund the vaccine purchases. That means more patience, and more patients dying for lack of vaccine.

In the meantime– some people-government officials, celebrities and what not—are getting vaccinated, either surreptitiously or arrogantly, at the expense of the government’s own priority list.  Jumping the line is the order of the day, further putting in disarray the government vaccination plan. It’s not surprising because no less than the commander-in-chief had earlier broken the line himself by letting others to have the shot first.

Ours is the cafeteria type of vaccination.

At this point, the priority list is just a piece of paper. No wonder the World Health Organization has warned that this unacceptable breach of the rule can jeopardize the jabbing plan. For one, it could stop the flow of free vaccines courtesy of the WHO under the COVAX facility.

The government is quick to react to the anomaly: give ‘em the show cause order or… That has been a tried and tested cop-out in the land where politics is the rule and not the exception.

When the people of Israel were led from the desert to the Promised Land by Joshua and Caleb, they were eventually given their share of the new conquest. Tribe by tribe they did get their portions. It was only after each tribe got its share that Joshua and Caleb took theirs. That’s leadership.  What’s happening in our neck of the woods is the opposite: dealership. The ones who are the helm and run the show are not leaders; they’re dealers.

Will we still reach Promised Land? If we’re lucky, or wiser this time around, we might.  The countdown has begun as the President’s term inches closer to expiration.  Others wish a faster counting, or the faster turn of days into night and nights into day.  This is the century of acceleration and, given the reality of distractions, from killer virus to middling bogus, we’ll just wake one day under a different dispensation.

We have reached that desperation point that a political adviser of an opposition senator said any outlier, that is not Duterte and his enablers, will already be an improvement. And part of the improvement in mind is for the Promised Land to become a reality where everyone is safe against COVID 19.  

It’s not without basis in reality or possibility. Before Donald Trump was booted out of office, the United States was leading the world in COVID 19 cases on a day-to-day count.  When  Joe Biden took over, the pandemic landscape changed dramatically. The last report is that more than 150 million Americans, or roughly 75 percent of the US population, have got the anti-COVID shot.

So, there’s hope.        

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