THINGS are apparently easing up now in relation to the pandemic. Two points: one, we have finally understood how the coronavirus acts on the body and on the community, and two, the vaccine will soon be available. Let us consider the second point.
Russia was the first to have announced that it has developed a vaccine against the virus. The Russians, with Old Guard Vladimir Putin at the helm, seem to be treating the development of a Covid 19 vaccine like the battle for space of old between the United States and the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the USSR. Of course, the US eventually dominated that race with its possession of better resources but the Soviets did put up a decent challenge.
That Putin and the Russians named the new vaccine Sputnik 1 could attest to their hidden intention, which is political in nature. The original Sputnik 1 was the first artificial Earth satellite built by man and was launched into orbit by the Soviet Union on Oct. 4, 1957. Thus, to claim another historic “first” in scientific advance, Putin had to remind us of the glory days of the Soviet Union by naming the vaccine Sputnik 1.
The problem when the intention is political is that people’s interest could be glossed over. I actually am hoping that this vaccine is really effective and safe. But after the recent Dengvaxia brouhaha, there is a reason for me to put the brakes to our excitement. This early, some experts are questioning the haste with which the Russians are completing the clinical trials, which could spell the difference between us being injected with a safe vaccine or not.
Among the reasons for the suspicion could also be because we are not familiar with Russian technology and tend to lump it with, say, Chinese technology that Filipinos do not speak highly about. We are after all, as a former colony, more enamored with Western culture. But there is a good reason for that. One thing that cannot be denied is that the West is not only advanced economically but also in many other things, including health and safety concerns.
The West has vast knowledge in, for example, the development of vaccines. When Western scientists note that Sputnik 1 did not undergo enough clinical trials, we should listen. A vaccine, after all, involves lives, and we never treat life lightly. Ironically, isn’t this the same administration that flogged the Aquino government for using Dengvaxia to attempt to solve the dengue problem?
What I am saying is that in our eagerness to lead normal lives again, we should not lose sight of safety concerns. We are friends with China and Russia, true, and are trying to pivot to their side and leave the comforts offered by the West but this is a different matter altogether. We need to be sure that the vaccine we will buy is safe. If that involves waiting a moment and conducting a deeper study, we should do it. Politics should only be secondary, even tertiary. Our foremost concern should be the people’s interest.