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Booster

In a country that has given less than 20 percent of its population at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine ever since the vaccination started in March, there shouldn’t even be a debate on booster shots.

However, because privileged Filipinos like to see themselves as belonging to an imaginary first world country, the fact that many of the wealthy nations that have basically achieved herd immunity because of how they cornered the global vaccine supply and the rapid pace of their immunization programs are now considering giving out booster shots is also making many consider getting their own boosters.

Let’s be frank. Filipinos who are considering COVID vaccine boosters are selfish. When they want to boost their bodies’ defenses from the dreaded Delta variant, they are primarily thinking about themselves. They want to beat the pandemic on an individual level, forgetting that by definition, a pandemic is never on that level. It is easy to forget we are never fully safe until everyone is fully vaccinated. That extra layer of protection will only protect us on an individual level and that is fine if you don’t go out or interact with unvaccinated people.

My analogy for this is my home where the adults are fully vaccinated but the kids are not. Nothing can stop the parents from getting booster vaccines if we have the ways and means but as long as the kids are unvaccinated, they are still highly vulnerable to COVID because the vaccine only protects the vaccinated. Getting booster vaccines will protect the parents more but the priority should be to get the entire household vaccinated.

My home is 50% vaccinated now. Until I can get it to 100%, there is no use thinking about booster shots because I would never be able to live with myself if I prioritized my booster so my life can be “normal-er” and then after a “normal” day out, I go home and twice-protected but Delta-carrying me infects my totally unprotected kids who could end up in the ICU or die.

The Philippines is in the same situation, only worse because our population of 110 million is less than 20% vaccinated, making the booster option even more selfish for those who are considering it. We have to get as much of our population vaccinated first before boosters become an option. This is what the World Health Organization is saying when asking wealthier governments to hold off on boosters so the already limited vaccine supply is loosened and the rest of the world can vax up.

My wife and I are the President, Health Secretary and Vaccination czar of our household rolled into two, and our goal is to vaccinate 100% of the population of our 4-person home. Once that is done, we can now go the extra mile and consider getting boosters if we have access and the budget. Of course, because we live in a community, we have to consider if boosters for us will not make it difficult for our neighbors from getting their first jabs.

It becomes a little bit more difficult when you have to vaccinate 110 million people but that is why we should pick competent people to run our countries. The competence and capabilities of our leaders is the reason why our vaccination status is such that we cannot even consider boosters right now.

Boosters might become necessary in the future, especially as the virus mutates further, but for now the primary goal is to achieve herd immunity first. That is what our health officials have to work towards and that is probably why boosters are not yet encouraged or made available right now. Based on our current pace of vaccination, we might have to be a bit more generous (yet again) with our definition of “future.”

It is easy to understand the desire to know more about boosters. After all, first world countries are already scheduling theirs. Furthermore, those who have been jabbed with the supposedly less effective but more expensive Chinese vaccine have legitimate reason to eagerly wait for news of boosters to be approved and rolled out. The pandemic is still raging and there is nothing wrong with wanting an extra layer of protection for yourself and your loved ones.

In a country where nothing seems to be going right and government has basically left us to our own devices, the temptation to find the ways and means to get a booster shot must be overwhelming. Fending for ourselves for 18 months is exhausting and with no light at the end of our tunnel, we have to consider everything as we do what we can to protect our loved ones and ourselves.

We can’t blame those who are willing to move heaven and earth to get their booster shots ASAP. They are only doing that because they have rightfully lost confidence in the government’s terrible pandemic response over the past 500+ days. 

What we can go after our government to do better so we can all get vaccinated and boostered ASAP because that is our only way out of this mess, as the uniquely Filipino experience of never ending series of lockdowns has shown. After getting 18+ months to get things done, the public officials who cannot do their jobs must be replaced and if the one who should be making that decision for our sake still refuses to do so, that key person has to be sent packing as well.*

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