Opportunities in COVID-19 vaccination
There has been a lot of public discussion on the details and issues surrounding and affecting the government’s program to secure vaccines and its plans for implementing a vaccination program. This public debate is healthy and beneficial as this will hopefully allow government and other stakeholders, both in the public and private spheres, to learn lessons and enhance the smooth implementation of the vaccination program once the vaccines become publicly available.
It may benefit the Philippines to look at some of the initial challenges faced by countries such as Germany during the initial roll-out of its vaccination program. While there have been ample discussions on the logistical challenges of vaccine distribution and calls for vigilance against unauthorized or fake vaccines, there should also be attention given to the fact that spoilage of some of the vaccine doses is bound to occur and measures should be in place to deal with this issue. As can be seen from the German experience, 1,000 shots had to be sent back due to a failure to secure the integrity of the cold chain requirement. Considering the difficulty of securing adequate supplies, spoilage of this sort must be minimized or altogether avoided.
Another factor to consider with regard to spoiled vaccines is ensuring that adequate measures are in place to prevent such spoiled vaccines from being used or redistributed for profit, which would affect the integrity and effectiveness of the vaccination program. The tracking and accounting of vaccines being distributed will be an important part of the program.
In addition to the challenge of tracking and accounting for the vaccines, it is just as important to account for and track those who have been administered the vaccine. Most, if not all, of the vaccines that will be available require two shots, with the second shot coming a few weeks after the first. Ensuring that the second shot is administered will be crucial to the vaccination program’s success and effectiveness.
While the Philippines may be faced with huge challenges, the vaccination program also gives rise to opportunities. Challenges require solutions, and enterprising individuals and entities will rise to the occasion when given the opportunity; the Filipino people are no exceptions in this regard. The emergence of locally developed apps such as StaySafe and Traze are a manifestation of Filipino ingenuity and ability to overcome the challenges we face.
It would be helpful if more information and discussion on the operational details are brought out for the public’s benefit. Doing so serves the purpose of not only keeping the public adequately informed, but also allowing enterprising individuals and entities to see opportunities where they can complement the government’s efforts, or offer solutions to further enhance the program.
The need to be able to track and account for the distribution of vaccine doses, and to whom these doses are administered, will benefit from these types of innovative and locally developed solutions. Following up on those who received the vaccine so they can be administered the second shot will likely require an effective record-keeping system and integrated database. Locally developed apps and digital solutions that will allow the seamless integration of data needed by the implementors of the vaccination program can be a beneficial offshoot of the country’s vaccination program.
The pandemic has brought about a lot of difficulties for the vast majority of Filipinos, and it is still ravaging our economy. While cognizant of our country’s limitations in dealing with the challenges posed by COVID-19, we should use this crisis to open up opportunities for innovative individuals and local enterprises to actively be part of the effort to defeat the pandemic, and bolster self-reliance in terms of our ability and capacity to deal with the risks and issues it has brought about.
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Moira G. Gallaga served three Philippine presidents as presidential protocol officer.
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