Victimizing the victims

By Artchil B. Fernandez

In his midnight show last week, Du30 again scolded Filipinos for refusing to be vaccinated. He told unvaccinated Filipinos not to go out. “Those who do not want to get vaccinated, I am telling you, do not leave your home because if you leave your home, I will tell the police to escort you back to your house. You will be escorted back to your house because you are a walking spreader,” he warned. “We have to come up with a law punishing a guy, a person, who has not been vaccinated and going around.”

This is not the first time Du30 tried to browbeat the public on vaccination. A month ago in his late night show he also threatened to arrest Filipinos who refused to be vaccinated. “Don’t get me wrong. There is a crisis being faced in this country.There is a national emergency,” he chided Filipinos. “You choose, get vaccinated, or I send you to jail,” Du30 menacingly addressed the country.

“Don’t force my hand into it. If you do not want to get vaccinated, leave the Philippines, go to India if you want or somewhere in America. But for as long as you are here and you are a human being who can carry the virus, get inoculated,” Du30 forewarned. “Otherwise, I will order the barangay captains to have a tally of the people who refuse to be vaccinated,” he added.

Du30 is trying to paint a picture that the main problem of vaccination in the country is the people. What stalls the vaccination effort of the government is the refusal of Filipinos to avail of the vaccines Du30 kept on harping in his weekly rants. Thus, he asserts, he is forced to threaten, bully, and intimidate them to get vaccinated.

If Du30’s tantrums are to be believed local health or vaccination centers are overflowing with vaccines. The problem is, people are not availing them. He is frustrated and mad because Filipinos are hardheaded.

What universe does Du30 inhabit? At what plain or level reality does his mind operate? Clearly Du30 and Filipinos do not share the same reality.

Latest data on the number of vaccines received by the Philippines since February is 33.8 million doses presidential spokesperson Harry Roque reported. Most of these vaccines were donations from the United States, China, Japan and the United Kingdom. A huge portion of the vaccines that came was through Covax facility. COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access or Covax facility was initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO) for 92 low- and middle- income countries to have access to vaccines.

Since almost all vaccines received by the Philippines are administered in two doses (except for the 3.2 million single-dose Janssen), they will only fully vaccinate 18.5 million Filipinos.

So far, 20.8 million vaccines have been administered in the country. Of this number, 11.7 million were administered as first dose. Over 9 million (9,115,963) Filipinos had been fully vaccinated. There are 109 million Filipinos and this means that only around 9 percent of Filipinos are fully vaccinated at this time.

Contrary to what Du30 is trying to portray what snags the vaccination effort of the government is lack of vaccine supply. Vaccines come in trickles. Had it not been for Covax and other donor nations, vaccines in the country would have been very scarce.

How did the country get into this situation?  It is the incompetence, ineptness, and lack of foresight of the Du30 administration that delayed the arrival of vaccines in the country.  Philippines is supposed to be among the first countries in Asia to get vaccines. As early as June 2020, the Philippine ambassador to the US and the foreign affairs secretary secured at least 10 million doses of the then being developed Pfizer vaccine.

Du30’s favorite health secretary dropped the ball and the deal was scuttled. That act of Duque prevented the arrival in January 2021 of Pfizer vaccines and ensured that the first vaccines to arrive in the country are from China. The blatant and shameless bias of Du30 toward China sabotaged the vaccination program of his own administration. Vaccination started in the country in March instead of January this year.

True many Filipinos are reluctant to get the vaccines but the unabashed promotion by Du30 of the expensive but with lower efficacy (50.4 percent) China vaccines further damaged the vaccination effort of the government. Filipinos are wondering why Du30 kept on insisting Filipinos take the China vaccines, fueling suspicion on them.

The Du30 administration is primarily responsible for the snail-pace of vaccination in the country.  Its lack of foresight and sense of urgency as well as bias towards China are to blame for lack or limited vaccine supply in the country. Had it been pro-active and not pro-China, it would have placed early orders of vaccines from countries where vaccine development was far advanced and secured the country of early supply. Vaccination could have started earlier had orders been made sooner than later.

Prioritizing the low-efficacy China vaccines also torpedoed the campaign to encourage reluctant Filipinos to get their shot. If Du30 is really serious in winning over the skeptical public he could have assuage the fear by giving them vaccines with higher efficacy. Filipinos deserve high quality vaccines since public fund was used to pay for the ordered vaccines. Why is Du30 giving them expensive but low-quality vaccines?

To cover-up his incompetence and epic failure, Du30 resorted to his old trick, blaming the victims. He is making it appear Filipinos are at fault – they are hard-headed, when in fact he is the reason why there are limited vaccine supply in country and the slow pace of vaccination. Truth is Filipinos are victims of his incompetence and laziness.

Victimizing the victims is Du30’s way of hiding his gross inability to handle the pandemic. He is the number one gas-lighter in the country.