NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 22 June) – In our country of several islands quite a distant from each other and separated by seas, herd immunity cannot be archipelagic but area-specific. It ought to be achieved first in locations now called “bubbles” where people live closely as a community performing economic and social functions. These bubbles are the like of Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Metro Iloilo and Metro Davao. Efforts to achieve it may later expand to neighboring provinces and eventually encompass the whole island where these areas belong.
Suffice it to say, that the vaccine-driven herd immunity needs to start in these bubbles that are the drivers of the national economy and where a big chunk of the country’s population congregates. By sheer number of the population, infection cases in the metros are almost naturally expected to rise.
Hence, it is a pragmatic strategy to give these areas priority in the vaccine rollout. The approach is not discriminatory. To jumpstart and revive the economy is good for all.
Incidentally, those who survived the COVID-19 have naturally acquired immunity from the disease. They and their close contacts who were likely infected but were asymptomatic constitute the herd of those who have acquired natural immunity. The importance, thus, of contact tracing, mass testing, isolation and quarantine cannot be over-emphasized.
The total number of the infected plus those who have completed the vaccine jab, if the figure would reach 70% of the populace in a particular bubble, enables that bubble to reach herd immunity.
Theoretically, infection cases in this bubble may gradually reduce or the symptoms of those infected may already be mild, or they may even become asymptomatic and may no longer be a concern of our healthcare facilities.
In this pandemic, the people may be grouped into three:
Those who are afraid of the COVID-19 virus
Those who are afraid of the COVID-19 vaccine
Those who are afraid of the COVID-19 virus and the COVID-19 vaccine
Group 1 is so scared of the virus that they swamp and jump the lines in vaccination centers, emptying the allocated vaccines in these centers at no time at all.
People in Group 2, especially, seniors, reluctantly submitted to the initial dose egged by their family but don’t show for the second jab fearing the deadly-rumored side effects of the vaccine. Educated members of this group, popularly known as anti-vaxxers, are virulent in exposing the vaccine makers’ so-called hidden agenda, spreading fear of the vaccine, downplaying its efficacy and in attacking the authorities for promoting it mindlessly.
Group 3 members are afraid to die of the dreaded virus and of the equally dreadful vaccine. They hide, sulk, or pray and keep away from any information about the virus or the vaccine.
On top of the inadequacy in vaccine supply and poor logistics, the resistance of group 1 and 2 hampers gravely the effort of health authorities in accelerating vaccination so as to reach soonest herd immunity. Unless and until the bottlenecks are breached, reaching herd immunity is far-fetched – it may take us five years, or it may not happen at all.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)