WE HAVE a social and moral responsibility to all those who were displaced and rendered jobless over the reeling effects of the pandemic, to our kids who are socially and educationally deprived, to the elderly and at risk populations who are concerned for their daily life, and for the hundreds of thousands who lost their lives. These are not just statistics. They are human beings who have families, kids to feed, friends and profession to keep us alive against the COVID-19 virus. We would do well to keep that always in our minds or rather be drowned in guilt.
How do we combat the rapid resurgence of COVID-19 cases? First, it all comes down to communication. Angeles City Mayor Carmelo “Pogi” Lazatin Jr., Chief Adviser and Tactician IC Calaguas, Executive Assistant IV Reina Manuel and other local officials have been in the forefront and remained undiminished in their resolve. They have been constantly emphasizing the need to wear masks, social distance, and the importance of proper hygiene, which are all critical in slowing and stemming the spread of the virus. More importantly, the city government has planned a vaccination blitz but supplies are scarce and I am afraid of being ‘starved’ for the vaccine just as the rollout speeds up.
Nevertheless, while waiting for the other batches of vaccine, Lazatin has prepped up vaccine storage facilities, logistic capabilities, process of deployment and future clients on top of medical frontliners and senior citizens. What they did collectively, in their own little way, is to procure freezers and refrigerators for the vaccines. While they continue to do just that, the city mayor geared up and pivoted to vaccine effectiveness, rollout plans, safety and efficacy of these vaccines. Second, Lazatin’s medical team has explained the science so people could understand the basics of what a vaccine is or does, which is bound to lead to public trust versus hesitancy. However, it is imperative to communicate all of the safety, regulatory and strict guidelines that were adhered to, just as any other drug would have been. Rafael Lazatin Memorial Medical Center (RLMMC) Officer-in-Charge Dr. Froilan Canlas and City Health Officer Dr. Verona Guevarra, both local Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) heads, urged all Angeleños to do their part in eradicating the unseen virus by getting vaccinated. Lazatin wants to ensure all 411,634 residents of the city will be vaccinated. As part of the information drive, Canlas and Guevarra discussed frequently asked questions about the vaccines in the midst of the swelling cases. “This is the start of the end of the pandemic. Be part of the solution and the only way to do it is vaccination,” Canlas stressed. The two medical experts also shared their own experience after having been vaccinated with Sinovac and Astrazeneca. The city government received the first batch of Astrazeneca vaccines from the Covax facility recently.
One of the main differences in the development of the COVID-19 vaccines, because of the “Operation Warp Speed,” in comparison to others, each phase of the drug testing and manufacturing were simultaneous. The ribonucleic acid (RNA) based platforms are not “novel” methods in fact have been studied since the 1990s. People need to be comforted in knowing that this science has been tested before.
Third, we should encourage questions. Questions are good, they are what drive our science. Will the vaccine hurt? Why do I need two shots? How was it developed? While it is hard to sway someone’s beliefs, informed answers from medical experts and trusted community leaders will help to achieve some level of comfort and understanding. Even doctors and vaccinators need to be educated on the various vaccines and details around it and they are learning all of the specifics now, as the drug companies continue to release their clinical trial data. While we may not have all the answers right now, medical professionals and science experts have everyone’s health and safety in mind, including their own.
The city government’s house-to-house survey of the 33 villages is on-going to build a database structure to be used for the vaccine roll-out. Surveyors have also prioritized all hospitals and medical clinics in the city. Lazatin yearned for a participative roll-out plan to educate and extract honest information from residents. Survey questions include the number of persons in the household; preferred vaccine; and health conditions including allergies, comorbidities, and if the person had been afflicted with COVID-19. The city government has also conducted an online survey, registration for inoculation and pre-registration for the upcoming vaccination activities. But Lazatin explained the city government will still prioritize healthcare workers and senior citizens among others in line with the guidelines set by the World Health Organization, IATF, and the Department of Health. The online survey is available in the official website of the Angeles City Government (angelescity.gov.ph), as well as on the Facebook page of Angeles City Information Office.
Lazatin has created the Angeles City Working Committee on the Adaptation and Implementation of the Philippine National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 Vaccines split into sub-committees – from survey and data banking, procurement, storage, inventory and handling, deployment, vaccination, post-vaccination and monitoring. The city government is also in the process of securing a loan for the procurement of the vaccines. It can be recalled that in January, the city received a favorable endorsement from the officials of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) with regard to its P600 million loan.
Local government units (LGUs) like Angeles City have expressed desire and commitment to fund and procure vaccines for all their constituents. This noble intent of Mayor Lazatin will expedite the vaccine procurement process as well as easing the burden of the national government so as to focus its vaccination program on those that belong to the priority, vulnerable and disadvantaged sectors of the general population. Allowing the LGUs to procure their own vaccines is a regulatory matter which may be temporarily allowed during a pandemic or a state of national health emergency. Allowing the LGUs to procure their own vaccines will prevent the spread of the disease and hasten the efforts to further open up the economy to restore and create more jobs for the people.
This is a difficult time. It’s not easy, but if we trust in the science, trust in the facts, and trust in the leaders making the decisions, we will have the opportunity to return to a time of normalcy, very, very soon. This is your finest hour Mayor Carmelo “Pogi” Lazatin, thank you for giving the Angelenos the things they needed the most: Encouragement and Hope.