Politicized Vaccine

Politicizing the Chinese-made vaccines and the vaccination program, in general, will only cause more harm than good to the Philippines and the Filipino people.

Nearly a year after the COVID-19 pandemic made its truly presence felt through the various community quarantine levels that the government implemented first in Luzon to the rest of the country to control the spread of the disease, the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in the Philippines. On February 28, 600,000 doses of Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac vaccine that were donated by the Chinese government arrived in Manila, delivered by a People's Liberation Army Air Force Xian Y-20 transport plane and received on behalf of the Philippine government by President Rodrigo Duterte himself. 487,200 doses of COVID-19 vaccine that was manufactured by British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca and acquired by the Philippines through World Health Organization's (WHO) COVAX facility is also scheduled to arrive in the country after those from Sinovac Biotech.

The 600,000 doses of Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac vaccine and 487,200 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine are going to be rolled out by the government for administration to health care workers, who are on the top of the priority list of individuals who should receive the vaccine. The first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine was Philippine General Hospital Director Dr. Gerardo "Gap" Legaspi, a renowned neurosurgeon, who led the rollout of Sinovac CoronaVac vaccine at the hospital last March 1, 2021. The SinoVac CoronaVac vaccine doses were distributed to various hospitals being operated by the Department of Health (DOH) throughout the Philippines, as well as those being operated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), and private hospitals such as St. Luke's Medical Center and Cardinal Santos Medical Center.

Similar to the doses of Sinovac CoronaVac vaccine, the 487,200 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine are expected to be rolled out immediately and distributed to health care institutions throughout the country.

Unfortunately, nasty politicking has not spared the COVID-19 vaccines being secured by the Philippine government. The particular targets: Chinese-made vaccines such as those manufactured by Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm. Instead of debating on the benefits and risks of each vaccine, the usual obstructionists and opportunists who seek to undermine the current administration are attacking the Chinese-made vaccines just because they are made in China, which has complicated geopolitical issues with the Philippines, in particular the South China Sea territorial disputes that also involve other Southeast Asian countries. The critics and detractors of President Duterte even went as far as accusing him of being a "Chinese lapdog" for "prioritizing" Chinese-made vaccines over those made by Western pharmaceutical companies, especially American firms such as Pfizer and Moderna, despite the fact that the government actually has a vaccine acquisition and rollout plan that clearly stated that vaccines from all possible sources will be secured.

When will the obstructionist and opportunist elements in Philippine politics cease and desist from politicizing the vaccination program and the Chinese-made vaccines? With both national survival and public health at stake, the last thing that should happen is for Chinese-made vaccines or any vaccine to become subjects of black propaganda, bickering, politicking, nasty media coverage and other things that the Philippines are notorious for. Can't these people just stop and instead cooperate with the government on how the nation will survive the COVID-19 pandemic?

As for the members of the general public who seem to have bought the black propaganda from the opportunists and obstructionists and suddenly become "choosy" when it comes to the source of the COVID-19 vaccine that they will take, Dr. Anthony Fauci and other experts have already said it again and again that the "best vaccine" against COVID-19 is the one that is readily available because it will provide the individual with protection against the disease compared to not having a vaccine at all. If Chinese-made vaccines are the only ones available, especially now that many countries in the world are experiencing problems with access to Western-made vaccines due to excessively high demand and Western countries hoarding large supplies that are more than enough for what they needed, would still be "choosy?" Local and foreign experts also say that Sinovac's CoronaVac can offer protection against mild to severe cases of COVID-19, which is why it is better to put trust in their words compared to those coming from politicians, journalists and pseudo-experts who do not really have anything good to say about things that come from China.

The Philippines is still fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that the vaccines have arrived and the vaccination program is in full swing, it is time for everyone to work together to achieve the goal of getting rid of COVID-19 from our country. Politicizing the Chinese-made vaccines and the vaccination program, in general, will only cause more harm than good to the Philippines and the Filipino people.

About the Author
Benedict is an agricultural economist, academician and writer. He has gained experience and expertise in various fields of economics, business, political science and public relations after through professional ventures in the academe, and in the public and private sectors. He has authored or co-authored key publications on topics ranging from agriculture and food security to global affairs and politics.
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