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The Covid horizon 2021

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THE WORLD will be a safer place against the COVID 19 IN 2021. It’s a fearless bet, a friendly wager that is more than a fervent hope; it’s an unshakeable optimism based both on science and faith, which can be both one and the same. Never mind the impostors called variants.

The silver bullet, or whatever color you may want to assign to it, is the discovery of more than one vaccine to counter the pandemic that has imbruted the entire world. When it rains, it pours. Miracles are ageless.

Many countries of the world have begun to roll out their mass vaccination programs as early as the week before Christmas Day.  Some will start jabbing their most vulnerable sectors in a prioritized approach not later than January next year. The remaining few countries, for some reason – partly because of logistics, partly because of politics or both—may have to wait a little longer before the vaccines arrive.  

The possibility, in their case, is so real you can cut it with a knife, so goes a song.  The victims and potential victims could freeze before the much-needed solution in freezers would reach their destination in the tropics. It’s worrisome, if not frightening. Geography and geopolitics might dictate the tempo and speed of the worldwide vaccination drive in this age of acceleration.

Sadly, the Philippines may belong to those who, in the verses of Alexander Pope, are “ the last to lay the old aside and are not those  “ to whom the new are tried”.

On  second thought, President Duterte has announced that, in fact, his soldiers and, according, Secretary Ed Ano, some Cabinet members have been inoculated with the vaccine by Sinopharm from China.  A caveat: the Food and Drug Administration has clarified that it hasn’t approved any vaccine yet.  

Health Secretary Francisco Duque is clueless, or he makes it appear that way.  Hath his eyes not seen nor his ears heard that a vaccination program in the country has been made already?   What everybody heard from the President through a television performance is the same as what he did, he said. Honest to goodness.

Duque, of course, has been raked over the coals by senators and others in the past for his patentedcluelessness on critical issues affecting his department and the government, particularly on health concerns and charges of corruption at PHILHEALTH.  They wanted him out of both agencies not one minute longer. But he’s somebody special to the President and, fortunately or otherwise, he seems not feckless but flawless. So, he stays and let the rest of the country go hang.

In his latest, not last, public address, Duterte has threatened to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States unless the latter provides at least 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to the Philippines, pronto.  No vaccine, no VFA.  

Either the President is bluffing or is dead serious.  Sen. Miguel Zubiri takes the President seriously and is presumably not happy with what he calls the politicization of the anti-COVID vaccine.  Others think he’s bluffing, or probably the precise word is joking, subject to interpretation by his jesters who have been chided for their alleged breaking of health protocol.   It’s on record: he called off his earlier plan to cross the South China Sea on a jet ski.  No big deal.

It’s a guessing game.  Duterte is enamored by things Chinese, like Sinovac vaccine. If the U.S. calls his bluff, he could always say “see, I gave them the chance to walk their talk but they proved the old saying that in politics, domestic or international, there are no friends, only permanent interest”.  If the US caves in,   Duterte can always say, I would rather have the Chinese vaccine because it’s consistent with my independent foreign policy.  Besides, China doesn’t need an advance payment for it.

By the way, China is so confident of the efficacy of its much-ballyhooed  vaccine that it had ordered millions of doses of the Pfizer brand.  Maybe it doesn’t have enough supply to jab its Red Army with and the rest of the teeming billion Hans.  

Obviously, unlike Duque and company, Xi Ping and his comrades did not drop the ball in their negotiation with Pfizer.  Something must have been lost in translation between Pfizer executives and Philippine leaders.   It goes to show that, indeed, the use of English in the Philippines is fast deteriorating. The last survey found that elementary English is what’s spoken in Philippine colleges and universities. We’ve come a long way, baby.

People remember that someone has referred to the COVID 19 as veerus. I tell you, we’re really in trouble in English alone.

It’s a good thing that local government officials have declared their intention to purchase some, if not all, the vaccines they need and start the ball rolling as soon as possible, with or without the national government.

Karl Marx, who invented communism, foresaw this coming a long, long time ago. From each, according to his ability, to each, according to his need, he wrote.

He didn’t foresee red-tagging, though, while a pandemic is raging. Political philosophers and their power-addled clients have always been blindsided by history or their heresy. Herod thought murdering children 2 years and below would write finis to the greatest story every told. He was not only dead wrong; he’s been dead many times over.      

Santayana has a fair warning: forget the past or repeat it at your own peril.

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