We should listen to facts, not false stories

by Ambassador B. Romualdez

“Sheffield’s Women of Steel – COVID-19: We can beat this” | Photo via Flickr/Creative Commons by Tim Dennell

Some individuals circulating messages filled with half-truths or making totally false claims only exacerbate the situation. They are fueling fear and anxiety and causing depression for our front liners and people who must go out to work every day to feed their families. More likely than not, these “negastars” have comfortable living spaces, can afford to work from home, or have their own private means of transportation – unlike most Filipinos who commute using public transportation to make a living.

Some of the preposterous stories going around are that the COVID-19 vaccines are not arriving at all; that it will take 44 years before the Philippines can vaccinate 70 percent of its population, necessary to achieve herd immunity; or that the government borrowed money heavily for vaccines with nothing to show for it. This is false – the World Bank and the ADB directly remit payments to approved vaccine manufacturers without passing through government coffers.

“The fact is, the US will only distribute their COVID-19 vaccines to the rest of the world as soon as their domestic demand is satisfied. The White House confirmed in not so many words that they have to fill the need to vaccinate Americans first before supplying other countries.”

This unfounded news and depressing rumors affect people negatively, causing some to adopt a fatalistic, bahala na attitude. We hear of people giving up, disregarding social distancing and health protocols, saying “life is short” or “we’ll all die anyway.” This is the last thing we need at this stage: an attitude that will only fuel the virus’s transmission rate.

The fact is, the US will only distribute their COVID-19 vaccines to the rest of the world as soon as their domestic demand is satisfied. The White House confirmed in not so many words that they have to fill the need to vaccinate Americans first before supplying other countries. The US has invoked the Defense Production Act that basically directs private manufacturing companies to prioritize the production of essential health products and, yes, vaccines for the federal government to meet the demands at home first. Clearly, the US sees this pandemic as a war that we must wage to protect American citizens’ lives.

In fact, many other countries that have placed their orders way ahead of the Philippines have not received all their supplies of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Thanks to people like Secretary Galvez, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, who worked on the World Bank loan, and his brother Paul in ADB for additional loans to partly pay for the Moderna vaccines. Secretary Locsin also played a major role in supporting our effort with the US government. Of course, there’s businessman Ricky Razon (who hates publicity), who volunteered to consolidate the private sector participation for the Moderna vaccine supply. Ricky even discreetly lent his private jet for Secretary Galvez to go to India and speed up the Novavax vaccine deal.

All these supply deals add up to at least 80 million vaccine doses that will start arriving in the second half of this year, with more to follow. India will be manufacturing one billion vaccine doses through the Quad nations – US, Australia, Japan, and India – to supply the ASEAN member-countries.

“Clearly, too, the vaccine is not a silver bullet that can instantly eradicate COVID-19. We still must wear masks and practice all health protocols like social distancing to prevent the virus’s continued spread. Even if vaccinated, you could still become positive.”

The United States understands all countries must have access to vaccines to achieve worldwide herd immunity. However, experts made it clear the COVID-19 virus can only be contained but not eliminated for several years.

Clearly, too, the vaccine is not a silver bullet that can instantly eradicate COVID-19. We still must wear masks and practice all health protocols like social distancing to prevent the virus’s continued spread. Even if vaccinated, you could still become positive. And although you may not get seriously ill, you could still potentially pass on the virus to other people. Currently, there is not enough data to show whether the vaccine can prevent transmission and for how long.

We should point out that it’s not only the Philippines that is currently seeing a spike. Many countries in Europe see a new surge in infections. France so far has only vaccinated 8 percent of its population. It has imposed a month-long lockdown for its capital city with an alarming 35,000 infections recorded in one day, prompting authorities to declare that a “third wave” has come.

It is good to know that scientists are not letting up in their efforts to stop the pandemic. Moderna, for example, has already developed a booster shot to fight the various variants and has started testing its vaccine on children under 12 years of age, with a separate study being conducted for 12- to 17-year-olds. Johnson & Johnson is also planning to test its vaccines on babies and younger children, so Pfizer is also conducting clinical tests.

“Sure, we can criticize the government, which is par for the course, but it should be based on facts and verifiable data. Spreading unfounded rumors will only give our front liners and local workers a feeling of helplessness and despair that would undoubtedly lead to self-pity and depression.”

A US company is also developing COVID-19 vaccines in nasal sprays since the nose is where the virus first enters to invade the body. According to our information, these sprays do not require rigid refrigeration and can be stored at room temperature for several months. Nasal sprays are already being tested as possible boosters targeting specific coronavirus variants.

Our difficulties will soon come to an end, but we must stop shooting ourselves in the foot by propagating these unchristian and unnecessary negative stories and half-truths. Sure, we can criticize the government, which is par for the course, but it should be based on facts and verifiable data. Spreading unfounded rumors will only give our front liners and local workers a feeling of helplessness and despair that would undoubtedly lead to self-pity and depression.
Email: babeseyeview@gmail.com

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