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For every Sinovac vial

What good is your patriotism if you are dead, is among the sentiments expressed by those who have agreed to be vaccinated with the China-produced anti-COVID-19 Sinovac despite their initial hesitancy and citing China’s continuous “creeping invasion” of Philippine territory for several years now. For while the Duterte administration was welcoming China’s gift vaccines with drum rolls and trumpet blasts, 200 or more Chinese boats were lined up armada-like at the Julian Felipe Reef which is Philippine territory. A case of China’s right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, a common saying that negates what it says.

China’s “gift” vaccines are “gifts” from an enemy — that is how I look at it as a Filipino. And who knows — of course, we know — what China will grab, has grabbed in exchange. I am talking of China as a country, not as a race. No racism here.

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Sinovac’s efficacy and safety are another matter but its availability is a no-brainer, like tikoy during the lunar New Year.

Much has been written about China’s so-called astute vaccine diplomacy that has gone beyond Asia and into Africa, the Middle East, and South America. But vaccine or no vaccine, the Philippines’ president has long flung his country into China’s tentacles, not minding the unanimous ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on the West Philippine Sea favoring the Philippines and rejecting China’s sweeping claims.

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Much, too, has been said about the botched deal that concerned the United States’ Pfizer vaccine because someone in the Philippine government “dropped the ball” while procuring it. The Philippines was left with the donated Sinovac (ordered ones are not free) and UK-manufactured AstraZeneca from the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility that arrived in March.

Vaccination began a week or so ago for the health care workers (A1), the senior citizens (A2), and persons with disabilities and comorbidities (A3). AstraZeneca was for A2, but the vaccine ran out so vaccination for seniors had to be stopped. Seniors were not to be given Sinovac because it had not been proven to be safe for people 60 years old and above.

After two days or so, the Food and Drug Administration announced that vaccination of seniors can resume using Sinovac because it is safe for seniors. Huh? Just like that? I heard San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora say that some seniors have refused Sinovac in place of AstraZeneca that ran out, dahil naubusan lang.

Is this the way we do things? People who have been hesitant having any vaccine at all became even more hesitant with this switching. But there are seniors who went ahead and would rather have Sinovac than nothing, adhering to the oft-repeated saying that the best vaccine is the one in your arm or one that is available. Better than nothing. Or beggars cannot be choosers. That it is a race against time. I respect those who would choose safety and protection for themselves and their families regardless of a vaccine’s level of efficacy and safety and geopolitical factors.

I know some people who would rather not join the mass vaccination at this time for safety reasons. Inquirer columnist Dr. Rafael Castillo has explained why it should not be done in hotbed areas. Throngs of people gathering to get vaccinated is an infection nightmare, just as worrisome as the distribution of ayuda for the jobless, cashless, and foodless waiting in line in the blazing sun to get much needed help. Why not house to house? (If I may digress, when did we start using the Spanish word ayuda—help, tulong, tabang, bulig—to refer to emergency aid? Cuando y por que?)

As to the gift from the enemy, my cinematic mind sees how every gift Sinovac vial equals a square foot of Philippine territory. No offense meant to those who have no choice but to take Sinovac. You have chosen what is best for yourselves. What disturbs me is how we have become a people with little or no choice, and that during these most cruel and unprecedented of times, our sovereignty has taken a back seat while the enemy is at the gates.

As for those who have not been vaccinated with Sinovac or have refused it for what to them are sound reasons, there is a saying, “Good things come to those who wait.” May it be.

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TAGS: CoronaVac, coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus philippines, COVID-19 vaccines, Human Face, Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
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