On the eve of this year’s historic peak prior to the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) embarked on another of its muddling initiatives totally contrary to and completely unsupported by the undeniable dictates of science and rationality. While eventually rejected by local officials, the IATF wanted to open movie houses at the time that the daily infection rate was in the foothills of a 700% peak.
The medical community was appalled by the apparent absurdity. So was any sane person.
It was serial stupidity. The only thing flattened about the pandemic is our learning curve. Last year when daily cases started rising by 600% within weeks, the IATF was called out for its "lack of sense of urgency, problems in COVID data management, and transparency in communication process(es)."
Headed by the Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH), and flanking him, on critical public health management, an army of unqualified, untrained, and inexperienced former military men, it is easy to see why we are far from achieving herd immunity on one end, and on another, cursed as the last economy to recover from COVID-19 and the serial bungling of the authorities.
Unfortunately, what occupies us and distracts from direct and appropriate pandemic responses just when the daily infection rate now heads towards 30,000 cases is what the opposition labels as “premeditated plunder”. That ranges from the P67 billion scandal at the DOH, the P15 billion at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., and now billions in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) purchases by individuals hidden under ranking officials’ shadows.
Ironically, reflecting the greater political arena, the toxic chemistry of corruption and incompetence characterize our choices for 2022. Characteristic and typical, officials resorted to whitewashing corruption and incompetence with mud. With apparent disregard of science, favoring instead geopolitical manipulation and influence in its vaccination program, officials persistently pander to ad hominem attacks and slander as a counteroffensive.
Among those in the crosshairs are the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 who said last April that two-week strict quarantines are wasted, and Dr. Anthony Leachon, a dedicated advocate for better vaccine management. They have been labeled rebels, accused of coveting cabinet posts, their expert advice, dismissed or tagged as irresponsible.
Lost and buried under the slime spewed against critics are critical pandemic imperatives. Dr. Leachon’s advice falls under this light.
One is that the Delta variant is exponentially more contagious and transmissible than other strains, thus causing the historic resurgence that now afflicts us and proves that the measures taken by the DOH and the pandemic task forces have been failures.
While all approved vaccines are effective and provide various levels of added protection, we must still expedite mass vaccination to reach herd immunity. Given emergent variants, the government must secure vaccines which have a demonstrated efficacy against the Delta strain. Thus, a multi-vaccine portfolio mix is imperative. This requires transparency, honesty, and openness in pricing and procurement, intelligent scheduling, and logistics protocols. Not shady and clandestine wheeling dealing by influential middlemen and dummies.
It behooves us to be ahead of the curve, to anticipate, plan for and address breakthrough infections after being fully vaccinated. We need to seriously consider and budget for booster shots and follow best practices where others factor-in the differences in efficacies and have embarked on fortifying the fully vaccinated for breakthrough infections from the emergent strains.
Our epic failures prompt us to learn from others who have dramatically reduced their infection rate. After all, only educated and intelligent responses wash over gross incompetence. Mudslinging does not.
(Dean Dela Paz is a former investment banker and a managing director of a New Jersey-based power company operating in the Philippines. He is the chairman of the board of a renewable energy company and is a retired Business Policy, Finance and Mathematics professor.)
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.