Published in Eastern Visayas Journal on March 6, 2021
On Monday, February 22nd, Australia began rolling out its voluntary mass vaccination program. United Kingdom began earlier on December 8, 2020, with almost 18 million people getting the first dose. The United States started in mid-December and has vaccinated 64.2 million people to date. According to the Bloomberg news site, 206 million doses have already been administered in 92 countries. Apart from the first world, 85 percent of countries have not even started vaccinations yet. At this rate, Bloomberg estimated it will take a little less than five years to cover 75 percent of the 7.8 billion world population with the two-dose vaccine.
In the Philippines, Rappler reported that 1.7 million is expected to be inoculated in the first quarter of 2021. 10-15 million doses for vulnerable and frontline sectors are targeted for the second quarter, and 25 million people are scheduled for the third quarter. By the fourth quarter, the Philippine government expects to have vaccinated 50-70 million Filipinos.
Will it ever be the normal that we know of, ever again? Will we be able to sustain the lockdowns, travel restrictions, and school closures until everyone has been vaccinated? Asian Development Bank reported that private school enrollment has fallen by 50.4 percent this school year and the drop will probably stretch into the next school year. The decline in private school enrollment resulted to 200,000 people losing their education-related jobs and a 16 billion-peso negative impact on the Philippine economy.
The path to normalcy is still far and unassured, but it is at the very least, in sight. Preliminary research by Public Health Scotland found that, four weeks after the first dose, hospital admissions fell by 85 percent and 94 percent from the two vaccine brands the government are using.
We cannot force the return to the normal way of life earlier than it can be safely determined by data, science, and government mandate. However, every individual bears the responsibility to ensure it does happen, sooner rather than later in this present situation that The Economist termed as coronormal.
The United Kingdom, where I currently live, is cautiously coming out of the national lockdown in four stages. By March 8th, all schools and colleges will reopen in the first stage, beginning a month by month easing up with restrictions projected to end in June.
In the Philippines and elsewhere in the world, getting vaccinated is only one part of a multi-defense system of each person and every society. The COVID cases found in Brazil and South Africa raises the possibility that the two vaccine jabs will need a booster to combat mutations. Wearing face coverings and face shields, social distancing, and frequent hand washing are tried and tested guidelines that need to be conscientiously followed even without reminders. Avoiding crowded spaces and gatherings is always prudent behavior. Monitoring symptoms, seeking treatment, self-isolating or quarantining show consideration not just for oneself but also for others.
Self-discipline and the sense of responsibility in every person will go a long way in the coveted goal of reaching that path to normalcy.ee