Cabaero: Pre-election year without vaccine

Nini Cabaero
·3 min read

IMAGINE a general election when the Covid-19 vaccine is not yet in the country or only a few have been inoculated.

The inability of people to leave their homes to vote or even attend sorties could affect the campaign unless election wannabes in government do everything to make sure voters get the protection and can go out or that electronic voting becomes dependable and is a reality by then.

Budget constraints will limit the government’s capability to buy the vaccine. But it is the possibility that people cannot vote for them that might just push the government to conduct massive inoculation against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) before May next year.

The next general elections are scheduled for May 9, 2022, when voters choose their President, Vice President, 12 senators, congressional and party-list representatives and local officials down to the city and municipal councils.

There is talk going around already on the persons who might be interested to run. No one has publicly declared interest, so the names floated are those of the potentially interested.

The story of the availability and access to the Covid-19 vaccine in the Philippines is filled with unclear statements, double-talk, lies and perhaps even a cover-up. People are left unsure whether a vaccine would be approved for use here, where the vaccine will come from, how much it will cost and what’s the priority listing for recipients.

The privilege of vaccination granted to top government officials and close-in security of President Rodrigo Duterte sends clearly the message that we don’t really know when medical frontliners and others, ordinary folk like us, will have their turn. Does the government even have a list of those to be prioritized when the vaccine arrives?

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo’s statement on the inoculation of Presidential Security Group (PSG) members did not help. Panelo had said the use of unregistered vaccines on the PSG is “legally valid” and “is consistent with – and pursuant to – its duty of securing the life of the President at all cost.”

But doctors have said the vaccine protects the inoculated, not the unvaccinated. It is possible for vaccinated people to still transmit the virus that causes Covid-19. There is still much to learn about Covid-19 that doctors cannot say categorically there can no longer be transmission. That is why those vaccinated are advised to continue wearing mask and face shield and distancing. It is when herd immunity is attained–with at least 70 percent of the population inoculated–that the rest in the community are protected.

The PSG vaccination makes us question what the criteria are for getting the vaccine ahead of others. Panelo said the factor considered was the President’s safety. For those without the position or connection, they can hope that the coming elections will force those in government to work hard to make sure voters, or the numbers needed for them to be elected, get vaccinated.