Systemic mistrust

The looming obstacle to the massive vaccination against COVID-19 may not be the brand or country of origin of the vaccines but the way we conduct the inoculation.

Reports of some folks skipping the priority queue, selling of vaccination slots, and underground sale of vaccines will cause disgruntlement and even sabotage efforts to stave off the infection.

A recent Social Weather Stations survey released on May 20, 2021 found that only 32% (or 3 out of 10) adult Filipinos are willing to get vaccinated, months into the country’s inoculation campaign. The top reason was fear over vaccination side effects.

But the World Health Organization’s representative in the Philippines, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, said supply versus demand is now the main concern in the vaccination effort.

Brand preference should not be perceived as vaccine hesitancy, Abeyasinghe added.

The WHO and the Philippine government laid out a priority list for the vaccine rollout. On top of the list are medical frontliners followed by immuno-compromised persons and senior citizens. Economic frontliners are in Category A4.

But latest reports of persons not belonging to the first three priority groups but were already vaccinated will shake the public’s faith in the system and the vaccine itself.

Based on reports, some of those who jumped the queue were either related to or friends of local officials.

Palakasan or padrino system is a malady that afflicts not just our politics but even our health system. Giving preference to relatives or friends of the powers that be sans plausible reason is a manifestation of an aberrant or dysfunctional system that we have been forced to live in.

Vaccine recipients who skipped line are to be blamed as well for their lack of guilt. They could have refused out of a sense of shame. But then shame and guilt are rare qualities nowadays.

If we really want the public to fully embrace COVID-19 vaccination, government should do its utmost to impose the priority list, which is based on humanitarian and practical reasons. If public trust dissipates, we will be hard-pressed to achieve herd immunity and eventual normalcy.