ALPSIDE DOWNED: Backscene

BERN, Switzerland (MindaNews / 31 January) —  A cursory glimpse on Friday at my favorite Corona virus tracker site gave me a curious and surprising statistic.

The site (https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/) ranks countries according to the total number of Corona virus cases that the countries officially report. The latest ranking had put the Philippines on number 32 spot with 521,407 total cases (there were 1,843 new cases reported), while Switzerland was just a tick behind at number 33 with 521,320 reported cases and 1,916 new cases.

Hmm, almost identical numbers, I thought. I was tempted to find other data where the two countries were also similar. Alas, I found nothing else.

I was even tempted to think that the Philippine data was not accurate. I listen almost daily to the scaled down ABS-CBN news programs and know that the resident ABS-CBN data analyst always offers this caveat: that some COVID stations or hospitals are not able to meet the daily target submission time and therefore the number of new cases could actually be higher.

My internet search led me on to the back scene, to the issue of when the Holy Grail of the pandemic search —  the vaccine —  would be coming to our countries.

A survey conducted in Switzerland on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation in January found that 41% of the people surveyed said they would be willing to get vaccinated immediately.

This contrasts greatly with the Pulse Asia survey, released in early January, that almost half of Philippine citizens are not inclined to get a Covid-19 vaccine mainly due to safety concerns.

Only nearly a third of 2,400 Filipino adults polled said they are willing to be vaccinated, while 21% couldn’t say yet if they want to be inoculated. Of those who don’t want to get the vaccine, 84% said they are “not sure of its safety.”

The Philippines is targeting to inoculate more than half of its population this year, using 148 million doses from at least seven vaccine makers.

But the government has been openly partial to getting the CoronoVac from the Chinese firm Sinovac, even if other unofficial surveys show that there is broad distrust from the public over the Chinese vaccine.

Swiss authorities meanwhile, have reserved about 15.8 million vaccine doses only from three companies:  Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

The vaccinations began in late December and the swiss government has set an ambitious target: to inoculate six million people or 70% of the population – on a voluntary basis – by summer, or up to 70,000 vaccine shots per day.

My family and I have enlisted online for the vaccine. The vaccine program is set by canton (or province) under the Swiss federal system. And although we are not in the listed priority groups (the medical frontliners, those aged above 75 and those in the homes for the aged, and so on down the age groups), we are hopeful that our group (cryptically called just “M”) would be called up to get our jabs by summer.

The small Swiss army and its reservist force are not even on the priority list, even if they were deployed for logistics support at the height of the first waves of cases last year and will likely be called on during the mass vaccination stage.

In the Philippines, soldiers and other uniformed personnel are 5th in line, after health and government frontliners, the elderly and the poor.

I find it odd that the Philippine president should want the families of soldiers inserted in the priority list for vaccines. In appreciation of the soldier’s sacrifices, he said in a visit to a military camp in Sulu last January 22.  Why not the families of the medical frontliners, who are truly risking their lives as they face the virus daily in the hospitals?

I can only hope that the vaccine could be rolled out soonest, fully understanding that the mass inoculation is crucial to the recovery of the already pandemic- battered economy. (Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their thoughts about their home country and their experiences in their adopted countries. Brady Eviota wrote and edited for the now defunct Media Mindanao News Service in Davao and also for SunStar Cagayan de Oro. He is from Surigao City and now lives in Bern, the Swiss capital located near the Bernese Alps)

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