The administration’s focus toward eradicating the coronavirus seems to bank on the idea of vaccination and herd immunity. It is quite ironic then that the vaccination program in the Philippines is slow, confusing, and unorganized. The fault can be attributed to many factors, such as the scarcity of the vaccines, logistics, and other things that may be out of the administration’s control.
Though the emphasis, it seems like the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) took no urgency, as the country is still struggling to contain, track, and unify information in the country’s vaccination program. If the president has been emphasizing the importance of vaccinations, why was the planning of the entire information system haphazardly put together?
Were the speeches of President Rodrigo Duterte not enough? He has emphasized how his pandemic response will hinge on vaccinations. Though not an ideal plan, the urgency and forethought in managing a country-wide vaccination program should entail having a way to track and verify the vaccination status of each and every citizen. With a 46.6-billion budget, I would expect only the best thought, care, and analysis toward the system of our vaccination program. But, with what recent news have showcased, the DICT seems to have lagged behind.
Recently, the Hong Kong government declined the vaccination cards of several Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), barring them from traveling. Their reason for decline is that there is no available central database for all vaccination records. Why? Because they have no way to verify the integrity and authenticity of the vaccination card.
The administration responded reactively, stating that Hong Kong accepts the World Health Organization-recognized International Vaccine Certificate—yellow cards that they only started issuing by last month—at a cost. Aside from the P300 fee for the card itself, there is also an additional convenience fee. This convenience fee, according to PisoPay—the private company handling this process—is due to the internal maintenance of their systems which is understandable. A hearing will be held soon with regard to PisoPay’s reasoning of the convenience fee and overall background.
The DICT has also urged local government units to submit their own vaccination reports so that they may keep their system together. If the Philippines had this centralized database for the country’s vaccination developed earlier, the Filipino people, especially the OFWs, would not be put on hold again—they would not be in a position of further confusion, frustration, and hassle.
Progress is being made, but this progress could have advanced sooner, saving time and eventually livelihoods. But yet again, at the end of the day, the Filipino will have to wait, stay in-doors, and pray for an adequate pandemic response that may or may not come to be.