When the vaccination effort in the Philippines finally started gathering steam a couple of months ago, there was a great temptation to breathe a sigh of relief. It didn’t matter if we started vaccinating our population of more than 100 million late and the progress of our march towards herd immunity was agonizingly slow. While it still stung, it started to matter less that our government officials responsible for securing our supply dropped the quality vaccine ball and ended up choosing the shot that was rated with a lower efficacy despite being more expensive. The point was Filipinos were finally getting vaccinated and the prospect of a normal life was tantalizing our quarantine daydreams.
Like the rest of the world, many of us thought and hoped it would be a matter of time before we could go back to the way things were before COVID-19 happened. Schools would be “normal,”stores and restaurants would reopen, people would get their jobs and social lives back, the economy would improve. We looked at how the people of the USA were starting to reopen their cities, lessen restrictions, and were even told it would be ok to stop wearing masks.
For about a couple of months or so, from March to May, we actually allowed ourselves to believe that we had beaten COVID and it was a matter of time before life would be normal.
And then the Delta variant happened and all our hopes and dreams were shattered once again. According to the US CDC, this mutated strain of the coronavirus was found to be more infectious, leading to increased transmissibility compared to other variants, even in vaccinated individuals. An updated guidance was released on July 27, 2021 on the need for urgently increasing COVID-19 vaccination coverage and a recommendation for everyone in areas of substantial or high transmission to wear a mask in public indoor places.
To be clear, although the Philippines is not covered by the US CDC, we are undoubtedly an area of substantial or high transmission. The recommendation to start wearing a mask again in public indoor places doesn’t affect us because we never stopped wearing masks and we even have the marginally useful but terribly inconvenient face shield requirement, but the need to increase vaccination coverage due to the Delta variant puts added pressure on our already slow pace of vaccination.
To make Delta even worse, data is starting to come out that it has the added feature of being able to affect young children, the demographic that we thought until now was relatively safe from the other variants of COVID.
Because of our slow pace of vaccination where we have inoculated just a little more than 10 percent of the population, we are obviously not yet vaccinating children who are now vulnerable to COVID. The takeaway here is that even if the adults in the family have been vaccinated, there is a chance that they can still be infected by the Delta variant and bring it home. The adults who have been vaccinated will be protected from severe COVID and might not have to be brought to the hospital, ICU, or the funeral home, but if they go out into the wild every day, their kids are potentially vulnerable.
This means that for the 10 percent of the population that has been vaccinated, we still cannot let our guard down. Just when it looked like we could see the light at the end of the tunnel, it feels like we are back to the beginning once again. Constant vigilance, paranoia, and our obsession with the safety protocols are making a comeback because of Delta. This rings especially true for those who interact with the public and have unvaccinated kids at home, which is probably 90 percent of the tiny percentage of the population fortunate enough to be jabbed. After all, isn’t the primary motivation behind getting vaccinated is so life can return to normal?
There is not much we can do about stopping Delta from getting here. Just like the OG COVID, no matter what our Department of Health says, we can be sure it was already in the country at least a few weeks before they admitted anything. If we only tested more of our population, we’d be able to confirm Delta-powered community transmission. But testing only confirms our worst fears so our government officials who don’t like to look bad try not to do too much of it.
The only thing we can do is to get vaccinated and to maintain vigilance. Vaccination will help us get to herd immunity and make it more difficult for variants like Delta to keep spreading. Constant vigilance will help protect ourselves and the unvaccinated, which in our country, now consist of those who do not have access to vaccines, the children, and the child-brained who believe anti-vax conspiracy theories and quack doctors.
The Delta variant has taught us that normal life is nowhere near the horizon. Populist Presidents Trump and Duterte were dead wrong when they nonchalantly dismissed the veerus, saying it will go away on its own. We now know that we need to do so much more than just wait if we are going to beat this virus.
Do your part. Get vaccinated, ASAP. And until your home and place of work has not yet achieved its own version of herd immunity, remember that we still cannot let our guard down because, as we have seen, the consequences are dire.*