"We are being asked the same questions to get the same answers all over again."
So, what happens now? Since COVID-19 enveloped the globe and turned our world upside down, the mantra has been that until we have a vaccine, we have to bear with all the experimental strategies and protocols - from various lockdowns to test and trace to mask wearing to social distancing, to hand washing, etc. etc. - to stem the tide and ensure the survival of the human race.
Well, we have endured and kept our side of the bargain. We have allowed governments including ours to experiment with our liberties, our very way of life even, to let the scientists have their way and fast track the development of a vaccine to eradicate the virus.
The problem is after months of lockdowns and related experimentations, the scientific community and medical experts have all but concluded that “a vaccine is unlikely to eradicate the coronavirus.” This, after at least three vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca), announced to a tired and weary world that they are all set for mass production and distribution by year end after concluding the vaccine development protocols. Wow!! What a big letdown..
No less than Sir Patrick Vallance, UK’s Chief Scientific Officer, who was on top of that country’s vaccine task force mandated to produce the cure at the soonest time possible stated the obvious during a hearing before the House of Commons Joint Committee on National Security Strategy when he said that the "notion of eliminating COVID is not right," adding that people would have to learn to live with the virus.
Noting that “even if a vaccine was available by the spring it would not wipe out the virus entirely,” Vallance advised that “it is worth reflecting that there's only one human disease that's been truly eradicated, and that's from the highly effective vaccine to smallpox, so it's a very difficult thing to do.”
And here’s Vallance’s clincher: "We can't be certain, but I think it's unlikely we will end up with a truly sterilizing vaccine, something that completely stops infection, and it's likely this disease will circulate and be endemic..Clearly as management becomes better and you get vaccination, that would decrease the chance of infection and severity of disease, and this starts to look more like annual flu than anything else and that may be the direction we end up going. Even with a vaccine, this is something we’re going to need to manage."
So, why are we making funds and other resources available to ensure that we immunize eighty percent of the population? Why did we have to go through all those experiments and sacrifice jobs, businesses and way of life only to be told that a vaccine will not wipe out the virus entirely and we will just have to manage and live with it? When those who have called out the authorities for the topsy turvy way by which the lockdowns and other protocols were being implemented were told to simply grin and bear things on the assurance that a vaccine will wipe away all their fears, what are they now getting in return? More excuses? More restrictions and diversions? More what?
Indeed, if a vaccine will not eradicate the virus as is now getting increasingly clear, and that we should learn to live and manage it, what new arrangements should be put in place?
Sadly, the latest pronouncements from Malacanang and the IATF only reinforce the view that the administration remains as determined as before to dig in with that unreconstructed Until-We-Have-A-Vaccine mantra. This has brought more conflicts and confusion in play. On top of the other disasters which visited us in the past month or so, the administration’s seeming inability to get out of that mantra can only bring more tears and damage to lives and livelihoods.
Truly, if a vaccine is not going to put a definitive end to the virus, and we are still going to have to manage it in the most effective ways that can be found – why can’t we get the government to seriously think and advise our people how to manage it in sensible, less destructive ways? Of course, we have had reams of advisories about the health protocols which, to be sure, have been properly observed? We have also advised the need to protect the elderly and other vulnerable sectors but, sadly, have not gone beyond the advisories to really provide measures to do so.
We have also allocated piles upon piles of money to take care of the jobless, the MSMEs, the “poorest of the poor,” the OFWs and other affected sectors but how long and how much can we afford this tokenism? Why can’t we devise ways to take care of the truly vulnerable sectors including those who may be caring for them at home and let the rest of the population get back their lives with protocols in play.
What’s the point of making all these tier type lockdowns (GCQ vs MGCQ ve ECQ) when we are not putting in place measures to truly get our lives back on track. Maybe we should get those making these kinds of decisions take a breather and really make an objective look at the set up in the various communities under these tiered lockdowns. What difference is there anyway, health or medical wise, between imposing 10, 20, 30 or even 50 percent allocations for restaurant sittings? Will a one- or two -meter distance between passengers in public utility vehicles really make that much of a difference? Is there any kind of science to all that?
Is anybody in the IATF or the Malacanang advisers ever interested in putting together measures for the “managing risk” option? Take the declarations about Christmas gatherings and going home to the provinces during the Christmas vacation. Up to now, we have confusing and conflicting advisories on what to do to undertake these traditional activities, save that unflattering even defamatory “we discourage” statement which means absolutely nothing. It is as these guys think people really want to get infected and do not care a whit whether a brother or a sister or a relative or even a neighbour gets the virus. It is as if people are like unthinking animals they will simply cast all cares away.
Unfortunately for the rest of us these concerns are not being discussed and debated because too many of our officials and their friends in media are too busy scoring easy points about their own “successes” in giving aid and comfort to their own sets of “vulnerables.” Instead of engaging in honest debate about ways to get the country out of the Until-We-Have-A-Vaccine non-solution, we are being asked the same questions to get the same answers all over again.