SEVENTEEN days before Christmas, all is calm, and all is bright already for 90-year-old Margaret Keenan—the first patient in the world to receive a Covid-19 vaccine.

The United Kingdom was the first country to authorize a Covid-19 vaccine for mass immunization after approving the Pfizer vaccine for public use. Keenan received the first shot of the German-American vaccine on the morning of Dec. 8, injected by Filipino nurse May Parsons.

This hopeful piece of news came just in time for the holiday season. As the rest of the world, especially the Philippines, looks on in awe at this watershed moment in contemporary history, one must wonder: Is the Covid-19 vaccine the best Christmas gift this year?

In a year bookended by volcanic eruptions and calamitous typhoons, with a pandemic to boot in between, the Philippines has had enough. There is only so much resilience Filipinos can muster up before that shiny resilience dulls into gray resignation—not the ideal spirit to welcome the yuletide. That is why any sliver of hope available should be enough to alleviate those shoulders burdened by uncertainty.

Now, where are we?

On Nov. 27, the country secured 2.6 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by United Kingdom-based drug firm AstraZeneca via a tripartite agreement with the private sector.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Dec. 3 said that it expects Covid-19 vaccines to be available by March 2021 after President Duterte approved the emergency use of Covid-19 vaccines to speed up the process of vaccine authorization, allowing vaccines to be approved for use in the Philippines within 21 days instead of six months.

But the Philippines has yet to get its hands on a single vaccine dose from Pfizer, which has already been approved for mass use by the FDAs of various countries. Apparently, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III “dropped the ball” on a deal with Pfizer, which could have granted the country 10 million doses of the vaccine come January 2021.

Despite government incompetence yet again, we continue to hope. We can hang again the parol that has accumulated dust after months in hibernation, set up the reliable Christmas tree and its string of lights that flicker in tune with the carols that fill the living room, and celebrate with hope for a return to normalcy.

But we must not mistake hope for complacency. Even with the promise of a vaccine on the way, the coronavirus is still out there stalking the streets. The country is still under quarantine. And everyone is still not encouraged to gather in masses even to celebrate Christmas. A positive Covid-19 test is, after all, the worst gift to receive this year.

So, is the Covid-19 vaccine the best Christmas gift this year, then? Perhaps. We will have to find out hopefully in the next few months. It may arrive late, but we are waiting.


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