TURNING POINT: Beware of What You Wish for

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 6 Aug) – “Kung walang bakuna, walang ayuda.”

“Hindi makalabas sa bahay ang walang bakuna.”

The two short liners above were, according to authorities, fake news responsible for the sudden unimaginable surge of people in various LGU vaccination sites, a day before the imposition of another Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila.

Fear, needless to say, clumped jab seekers in vaccination sites. Many were already in the queue as early as 3 o’clock at dawn, pushing and jumping lines, eschewing the risk of a stampede, violating health protocols in the midst of spiking Delta variant-driven COVID-10 infections, only to be informed later of the non-availability of vaccines. Yet, the crowd, that included elderlies and persons with disabilities, lingered around under the scorching sun hoping for a vaccine arrival miracle. Why the affected LGUs did not seek help and ask for more vaccines from appropriate government agencies is confounding.

The sorry event prompted by said fake news? But were they really fake news in the first place? There was no mention in the mainstream and social media of such fake news or fear mongering until the authorities used them to explain what happened yesterday. The fear of the consequences of not being vaccinated has been likely churning in the minds of many arising from previous threats on vaccination. This fear might have been talked around in neighborhoods becoming a shared or common thought in the process. The fear became palpable with the coming of another dreadful lockdown.

Remember that as early as last June, President Duterte raged and threatened to jail those who refused vaccination. Now connect that to the impending lockdown, the people’s loss of income and the consequent hunger: that unfolded the tragic social drama that we witnessed, was witnessed the world over on August 5, 2021.

The situation is ironic. Vaccination and the observance of minimum health protocols were supposed to curb the spread of the virus. The government encourages vaccination, if possible for all citizens, but its campaign has not been that effective; only about 10M of the population have been vaccinated and only 5.78% (4M) received their complete dose as of July 2021. The slow pace of the rollout piqued the President, prompting him to threaten – to jail everyone who refuses the vaccine. To provide a legal brace to his threat, Congress is set to pass a legislation on forced vaccination.

But even before this legal fear approach could materialize, the ripple of fear from the earlier threat turned into panic and became a rampaging tsunami of jab seekers in various vaccination sites yesterday, 5 August, their needs of which were not matched up, unfortunately, with available vaccines.

The human surge for the vaccine tragically mires the very reason for vaccination; the surge of jab seekers became malevolent spreaders of the virus.

The moral remains: Beware of what you wish for, and be ready for it.

(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.)

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