FOR the umpteenth time, vaccines against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) are being administered for free by the Philippine government. So why do some people resort to procuring the vaccine through illegal means?
Obviously, if there is no demand, then there would be no supply, which would explain why three persons, including a nurse from the Manila district hospital, were arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation 7 in the National Capital Region last week for selling doses of the Chinese manufactured Sinovac vaccine.
Perhaps the buyers don’t belong to the first five priority groups: health care workers (A1), senior citizens (A2), persons with comorbidities (A3), essential workers (A4) and indigent individuals (A5).
Hence, they have to wait their turn to be vaccinated, but they’ve run out of patience. After all, it has been more than 15 months since the pandemic began.
Millions of lives have been upended since then. Many face an uncertain future, especially those who lost their livelihood and have been forced to lead a hand-to-mouth existence. Others play Russian roulette with the virus, betting on luck that they won’t get infected, because they have no other choice.
It’s safe to assume the buyers do not belong to this category since they have the means to purchase the illegal vaccine probably at an exorbitant cost.
Had they belonged to the first five priority groups and registered under the government’s vaccination program, then they would have probably received at least the first dose of the vaccine. Despite the intermittent supply.
Here in Metro Cebu, local government units (LGUs) have been forced to suspend their vaccine rollout several times when their supply ran out. They, like all the other LGUs nationwide, rely on the allocation and delivery from the Department of Health, which, in turn, relies on the arrival of shipments from abroad.
The Philippines is not alone. Other countries share a similar fate.
What compounds the problem is that the Philippines suffers from a high vaccine hesitancy rate.
A Pulse Asia survey released earlier this year showed that “six out of 10 Filipinos didn’t want to get vaccinated.” In Cebu, it’s roughly around 80 percent, according to the Inter-Agency Task Force chief implementer for the Visayas.
Fake news about the vaccine ranges from the morbid – becoming weak and dying after getting vaccinated – to the fantastical – turning into a zombie after injection. And yet many individuals have used this as an excuse not to get the jab.
So even if the country had plenty of vaccines to go around, it would still face the challenge of convincing a majority of its population to get injected.
At the other end of the spectrum, you have people who are willing to buy the vaccine from the black market.
It doesn’t make sense.
Either desperation has forced them to go to great lengths or they want to pick the brand that will be administered to them.