iTHINK | Herd immunity: Every shot matters

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“Fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks.”

Those were the words in bright blue text on US President Joe Biden’s Instagram account on Monday, May 17, after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its latest recommendations. This comes as nearly 40 percent of the US population are fully vaccinated and almost half have had at least one dose as of May 16, 2021.

The announcement is particularly notable, given how politicized mask-wearing had been in the US and some other parts of the world. Given how anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers tend to be the same people, it’s interesting to see whether this development can motivate them to get the jab.

Back at home, I’m happy to announce that my parents received their first Covid-19 vaccine doses last week. Like many, they had their apprehensions and were worried about potential side effects after reading some reports on blood clotting with the particular brand that they received. Ultimately, they were convinced to get it – both for their personal protection and for the common good.

We keep hearing about herd immunity and how it’s the only way we can get our lives back to normal. For non-health professionals like me, the good folks at Johns Hopkins School for Public Health says that herd immunity or herd protection is achieved “when most of a population is immune to an infectious disease, this provides indirect protection to those who are not immune to the disease.”

With a highly contagious disease like Covid-19, we can achieve herd immunity either by waiting for most of the population to get infected or through vaccination. Given how, even with lockdowns and mask-wearing, our hospital systems are being strained, mass vaccination seems to be the logical choice. Also, as the son of two vulnerable senior citizens and father to two underaged daughters, I am unwilling to accept the risks that mass vaccination brings.

Unfortunately, anti-vax misinformation has reached our country, care of social media. This has led to vulnerable people unnecessarily delaying or opting out of getting a vaccine – even if they’re entitled to get them as either senior citizens (A2) or as adults with comorbidities (A3).

It’s worth noting that for health professionals, the acceptance of vaccines around the world tends to be very high. Perhaps the hesitant can follow the lead of these people who better understand the science and dynamics of vaccines and public health and factor their expert opinions in their decisions.

While social media and the Internet have been wonderful in creating a platform for all opinions to be expressed, I still think that not all opinions are created equal – especially in matters involving technical expertise. Doctors have spent decades to earn their degrees and qualifications, and they are the ones putting their bodies on the line to save our lives. Let’s listen to them.

Personally, I can’t wait to be vaccinated through the Ayala Vaccination and Immunization Program, which I’ve signed up for as an employee of BPI – which is part of the Ayala Group of companies.

In addition to supplying vaccines to employees, our dependents, and our contractors, the program will also donate an equal share of vaccines to the Philippine government to help speed up the vaccination process for more of our countrymen.

I’m proud to be a part of a company that cares for its own and for our country. By willingly and freely providing hundreds of thousands of these precious vaccines to the public, the Ayala Group (and the other private companies that have stepped up to do the same) will help get us on the road to economic recovery and to the ‘next normal’ and better Philippines.

If you are eligible for a vaccine, please get it.  Let’s all do our part to keep ourselves and each other safe.

The author is the vice president and head of corporate affairs & communications of BPI and is concurrently the executive director of BPI Foundation

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