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Go figure, Joey

“That vaccine represents a lot more than not getting sick. It is about living life as we should.

John Henry Dodson

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The issue with businessman Joey Concepcion of the Go Negosyo fame is his title — Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship — and his expertise.

So while Concepcion said he was pushing for the use of rapid test kits (RTK) in conjunction with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing for returning workers, he was simply out of his league picking a fight with doctors on the matter.

It was not a business concern when the doctors expressed their opposition to the use of RTK due to their high failure rate. It was a matter involving science, according to the Philippine Medical Association.

And even if we go both by the economics and the lessons learned from the history of pandemics, it doesn’t make peso and medical sense to use rapid test kits at P3,000-or-so a pop.

False positives from RTK touch off unnecessary PCR testing at double the expense to the government and the private sector at a time when money is scarce and is better used buying food.

That’s the reason why we have gone on lockdowns and conjured all those social distancing protocols. So we can stem the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) while mass testing using a proven system remains a pipe dream for the Philippines.

Even most hospitals in the United States first require their frontliners to undergo quarantine when exhibiting symptoms, like coughing or fever, before administering PCR tests, if and when their conditions do not improve.

Truly, a false negative from a rapid test kit is more dangerous as it may prompt a returning worker, or anyone for that matter, to disregard COVID-19 symptoms he may already have instead of going on self-imposed isolation.

Someone armed with a clean bill of health, a false one borne by a false RTK negative, may actually be a COVID-19 spreader who returns to work thinking all he has is the common cough and cold.

In the same way that Concepcion questioned the doctors’ seeming insistence on using PCR, he has opened himself up to the same question why he was pushing for the use of the discredited RTK now flooding the market.

On the presidential adviser’s rejoinder that he was not referring to all doctors when he said all they do is talk, he could have referred to just one and he would have still earned flak.

For all we care, a hundred businessmen could band together and still not have a weightier position against a single doctor talking within his field of expertise. One consults a doctor and not an entrepreneur when there’s a boil to be pricked.

The inverse is also true when it comes to economists and entrepreneurs like Concepcion talking about money, gross domestic product and the bottom line. They may well be speaking ex cathedra like the Pope regarding those issues.

If we are to test people at all, let’s use a system that works, whatever that is, instead of wasting time and money and endangering ourselves using a method that turns out false positives and false negatives at levels that make them dubious.

***

Whoever gets to develop and patent a vaccine against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) will be churning in mind-boggling profit never seen before by even the biggest pharmaceutical firms.

It’s a race that’s only partly motivated by a desire to stop a virus that is killing people by the hundreds of thousands, but also by the quest to find today’s equivalent of Pfizer’s heretofore top money-maker Viagra.

That vaccine will be twice efficacious for physical and mental health, an ounce of prevention against COVID-19, and a return to real normalcy and not the “new normal” that is, in fact, abnormal.

As this contrarian sees it, the touted “new normal” — wearing face masks and social distancing — will not fly for long, even if enforced under pain of imprisonment. Man is a tactile and emotional creature who needs plenty of hugs and kisses to be happy.

As of this writing, the World Health Organization has reported eight candidate vaccines already undergoing clinical tests on animals or cell cultures and over a hundred more under pre-clinical evaluations.

Of the eight testers, one laboratory is based in Beijing and another is in Wuhan, both in China. Wuhan? Wasn’t COVID-19 developed by China in a Wuhan lab to conquer the world by bringing America and Europe on their knees? Conspiracy theorists and xenophobes, you may start firing away in the comments section below.

The COVID-19 vaccine — if ever there will be one since all attempts at developing one for AIDS-causing HIV have been failures — will be a bestseller by necessity because real normalcy, with people able to eat out at restaurants and watch movies, requires bonding and physical closeness.

The real normal against the “new normal” is what has driven economies; thus, that vaccine represents a lot more than not getting sick. It is about living life as we should. Together, close together, after the necessary handwashing and, okay, that obligatory face mask.

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