After receiving numerous laments from vaccinators and government officials about people holding back their vaccination based on preferred choice, I suggest that the Department of Health and all local government units should immediately cease from announcing what brand of vaccine has been delivered and will be used. In a “brand conscious” and “brand loyal” culture as the Philippines, no amount of logic and persuasion can over come “choice.” Like it or not Filipinos have more trust in products made in western countries or at the minimum Japan and South Korea, especially for consumer goods and entertainment. In addition to “choice,” the internet has made it abundantly clear that in terms of vaccines, the “western” brands are better than “Made in China”. It may be irrational, risky behavior and counter-productive but it is in our consumer DNA.
By simply enlisting willing individuals and withholding the manufacturer’s name, the process will effectively filter out those who want to be vaccinated from those who think they should sit it out until they get their vaccine of choice. While the ideal is for all Filipinos to be vaccinated so we can achieve herd immunity, we really don’t have enough stock on hand and what we have requires immediate use. As the saying goes: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink.” Remember, as far as government is concerned, the deal is to make vaccines available. Not a choice of vaccine.
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A friend on Facebook recently shared his view, more his apprehension, on whether “we” are facing the end. I guess he was referring to the escalated hostilities between the Jewish army and the Hamas militants, the latest of which resulted in the shocking attack on a building that housed two global media organizations: Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. Then there is the outbreak of COVID-19 in India that infects people by the hundreds of thousands daily and threatens the output of factories manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines while thousands of dead people were being publicly incinerated over burning wood piles.
In our very own neighborhood, we have the growing tension between the Philippine Coast Guard and Chinese fishing boats and militia. Towards the weekend, we had a mild earthquake and two hospitals catching fire. My friend who studies the Bible was probably thinking of what Jesus Christ said when his apostles asked him what would be the sign of his second coming, to which he replied:
“6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
I have not reached the lows that my friend is probably imagining regarding global pandemics and the end of days, perhaps because I have long surrendered everything to the will of the almighty God. We won’t know the time nor day when we will each be recalled but suffice it to say that we should all have a goal in mind: that afterwards we will hear the words: “Well done, Good and Faithful servant.”
Over the weekend I chanced upon a program on CNA or Channel News Asia where the news anchors were interviewing a Singaporean physician named Dr. Leong Hoe Nam who was talking about a recent case of 18 individuals in Singapore who were all fully vaccinated for COVID-19 but still tested positive for the virus. Most of these patients only displayed mild symptoms while the rest were moderate and did not require hospitalization or extraordinary medical intervention. In the Seychelles, despite a very high portion of the population being vaccinated, they are also experiencing a surge in COVID numbers, however again no serious cases. The reality is that the vaccines simply protect you from serious infections and mortality from COVID-19. You can still catch it in high traffic or populated areas such as markets, poorly ventilated rooms and buildings, or by not observing the health protocols designed to prevent contagion.
If you can manage not to get depressed or anxious, it may be well worth the time to watch worldwide news coverage of the pandemic because one thing that will become undeniably clear is that the “Good old days” will be giving way to borderline paranoia towards “Safer days, health conscious days”, as well as a reset of our personal values and what we see as essential and valuable. Perhaps what Jesus meant when he said “will be saved”, refers to us being saved from ourselves, our false hopes, our perpetual greed and unrealistic expectations.
Bureaucrats keep talking about economic targets and the likes, but go ask the survivors of world wars, genocide, famine, even cancer patients or people who went through near death experience and you will learn things they have in common: they don’t take things for granted, they are not in the habit of splurging, they’ve become very protective of family, they plan as far as their nose goes and their eyes can see, they have become focused and disciplined about their faith and family “rituals.” Above all they are grateful for each day, by living the best they can and expressing their thanksgiving to the Almighty God in every way possible.
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