Do heroes become heroes because of the level of sacrifices they faced? If so, should we add more burden to them so that they become more of the kind of heroes we want them to be?
Apparently, President Rodrigo Duterte’s “government of the best and the brightest” has an answer — yes to both. In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite being considered as heroes, more and more burden are given to the health care workers (HCWs). These include delayed benefits and incentives accorded them by law, treating them like commodities in exchange for vaccines (though this was later denied by labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III), and making them lower class citizens compared to the military personnel and their families.
A few days ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also recommended not to give the HCWs with SINOVAC vaccine despite the policy prioritizing these workers. Guised in the act of concern, FDA Director General Eric Domingo said “The use of Sinovac vaccine on healthcare workers is not recommended as it has an efficacy of 50.4% in this group” — an alarming statement from an official of an agency that guarantees the safety, quality, purity, efficacy of products in order to protect and promote the right to health of the general public. Otherwise, why approve the vaccine if it is not that effective?
Domingo, though, is being opposed by the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) who insisted that the order of prioritization in the inoculation policy be observed. In a resolution, NITAG recommended that SINOVAC vaccine be also given to the HCWs and be allowed to exercise the right of first refusal. Unfortunately, though, the NITAG resolution still needs to be concurred in by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez.
In other countries, along with being given the priority to be inoculated with anti-COVID-19 vaccines, HCWs are also given mental health support, child care support, financial and other practical support. The latter includes free parking space as in the case of Finland, or being awarded with 50 Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits in the case of Italy.
How the Philippine government treats its HCWs is just a reflection of its treatment of the other equally important sectors of the society. For example, while too much fuss is given to the plight of the farmers, the Department of Agriculture is busy facilitating the importation of agricultural produce which in effect kills those in the agriculture sector.
Governance is the balancing of interests of different stakeholders. If the interests of the HCWs are not given proper attention despite the demands of the current situation, it is either that responding to COVID-19 is not among the Duterte Administration’s priorities or the people holding the reins of power just do not know their priorities. Not unless they are thinking that the HCWs are heroes so why not burden them today and just venerate them after their death.