Data gathered by international media networks show that as of last week, some 12.3 million doses of anti-COVID vaccines had already been administered in some 30 countries led by the United States.
The U.S., the world’s worst-hit country by the virus, aims to vaccinate 20 million Americans in early January with either Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Nearer home, Singapore and Indonesia have already rolled out their own vaccination programs with Singapore using the Pfizer vaccine and Indonesia the China-produced Sinovac.
But how are we doing in the Philippines?
Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez has said that it would be May, or five months from now, when we can finally start our vaccine rollout. Why it would take us this long, he has not fully explained.
The urgency of the vaccine rollout cannot be overemphasized. The more the delay, the more Filipino lives lost, the more suffering and agony for our people.
This could be the reason why some groups, including members of the Presidential Security Group and some in the military, have resorted to having themselves inoculated with smuggled China-made vaccines with dubious efficacy and no matter if they have violated some of our laws. And this could also be the reason why some local government units (LGUs) have expressed their desire to import the vaccines themselves to protect their constituents.
The League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) has formally asked the national government agencies to determine and recommend courses of action that may enable the cities to purchase their own COVID-19 vaccines. In Metro Manila, almost all of the mayors have also inquired how they can import the vaccines themselves.
And they have the money. Makati has P1 billion; Pasig has P300 million; Manila has P250 million; Marikina has P82.7 million; and San Juan has P50 million.
Private business groups have also said that they can purchase vaccines for their workers if allowed by the government.
It is either incompetence, bureaucratic red tape, or lack of coordination among agencies that have delayed our vaccine procurement.
Our officials may be working 24-7 to address the problem. But it seems that what they are doing is not enough.
Can we have the vaccines now and not wait for five months?