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Cures and ills

“Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said mass vaccination against the coronavirus could realistically happen by the end of next year..

Dinah S. Ventura



“Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone, young or old.”

The farewell letter mistakenly attributed to the novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez beautifully lays out a number of important lessons in life.

And if we could read it, we would know that these are the very same ones many of us have taken to heart, too, in the midst of a pandemic.

Time has been the greatest value we learned to appreciate during the pandemic — how fast we can come up with a medical breakthrough; how long the days are when you’re in quarantine; how quickly we learned to adapt to the circumstances; and how short life truly is.

This is why news of a vaccine possibly getting to our shores faster than expected came just in time.

The spark of hope it brings is a Christmas gift that we should celebrate with our families whom we learned to appreciate more in the months we have been living under the shadow of a global health threat.
It does not mean, though, that we should loosen up with the protocols. The coronavirus will always be around.

Still, we can imagine a near future where we can start to get back to a modicum of what used to be normal.

Last week, US pharmaceutical company Pfizer said analysis of data from its clinical trials showed its vaccine was 95 percent effective, even on the elderly, leading the company to apply for the first US regulatory authorization for a coronavirus shot.

The said vaccine, the company’s report revealed, “protected people of all ages and ethnicities, with no significant safety problems so far in a trial that includes almost 44,000 participants.”
Meanwhile, another major player in the vaccine race, Moderna, also released similarly promising results. The UK one from AztraZeneca, noted as the cheapest among all major brands (costing P610 per person, said Senator Pia Cayetano in a report on CNN), is also expected to come out with its data soon.

If everything works out, a vaccine may be available in the market by April 2021.

That, in itself, would be as close to miraculous as the development of a COVID-19 vaccine has been.

This is because vaccines normally take several years to be developed, approved and marketed for widespread use.

The fact that scientists all over the world had been able to create their own versions in a matter of months is as unprecedented as the arrival of this coronavirus pandemic into our lives.

Yet, at this point, with over 1.3 million deaths reported worldwide — and the Philippines having the “second-worst coronavirus outbreak in Southeast Asia with over 412,000 infections as of Wednesday,” according to Bloomberg — the prospect of having a vaccine is more than reassuring. It makes us breathe easier even under the cover of our masks and shields.

With this news has come more encouraging ones.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who had promised to scour for funding so that all 103 million Filipinos will get a vaccine, has also ordered that the approval process should be cut from six months to three weeks.

From about 17 possible sources of vaccines from various countries that the Philippines is considering, those from Pfizer and Moderna seem most likely to arrive to our shores by mid- to end of 2021. Both have reported high efficacy rating at 95 percent in their phase three clinical trials.

President Duterte has also changed his mind about allowing the government to pay in advance the pharmaceutical companies developing COVID-19 vaccines.

The next challenge is procurement, storage and distribution.

Congress had passed a budget that includes funds for COVID-19 vaccines, but some senators say we need to find more funding to cover other costs including facilities for proper cold storage. Unlike other vaccines, this one needs lower temperatures, it is said.

A Department of Health official said about P3 billion can cover the vaccination process for 25 million people. The augmented budget, meanwhile, is about P8 billion now from the approved P2.5 billion the Budget department had originally approved.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said mass vaccination against the coronavirus could realistically happen by the end of next year.

Until then, keep in mind that we’ve survived this long.

Remain mindful of our responsibility to keep safe while also keeping up the gains that came out of the pandemic: a return to forgotten or neglected values, a reprieve for the environment, a new appreciation for our borrowed time.

For the countless lives we have already lost because of this war against COVID-19, we owe it to them to leave the world a better place than before.