The head of the serpent

If a person has more than one injury, responders deal with the deepest or most serious first.

Or to use another analogy, if you are threatened by a snake, you cut off its head.

Dominican priest and molecular biologist Nicanor Austrianaco uses these analogies to support his position that disbursing 90% of COVID vaccines in the national capital region, the epicenter of the pandemic, would speed up recovery across the country in terms of health and of economy.

“If the snake’s head is cut off, what the local authorities in these other provinces will find out is that it actually becomes easier for them to control their pandemic because there are fewer cases from the capital”, he explained.

“Anytime we see a flare or a spike in one of the provinces, it can usually be attributed to a traveler from the NCR who brought the virus to that province. The idea here is that by cutting off the snake’s head, the provinces would be able to better mitigate the pandemic and you won’t have new cases imported from the NCR, ”he said.

Citing the size of the population in the NCR, Father Nic noted that the peaks recorded in the provinces are relatively small compared to the number of new cases in the capital.

“It would help the whole country at once without necessarily achieving collective immunity across the country by Christmas,” he said, referring to their vaccine prioritization proposal.

* * *

Anyone living in the National Capital Region will be accused of bias in this debate. Father Nic, however, is a visiting professor from Providence, Rhode Island, and he does not need to be prioritized for vaccination in the NCR. He has already received his second dose of Moderna jab in the United States, where he teaches biology and theology.

Father Nic, who faced off against “The Chiefs” on One News last Friday with fellow OCTA research team member Guido David, said the 90% vaccine award for NCR does was not an idle suggestion. The figure was not taken from the air, but was based on a vaccine optimization modeling prepared by him and a graduate student at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

They used five different vaccination scenarios: a “countrywide deployment” according to the current allocation of 40 percent to the NCR and 60 percent to the remainder; NCR first; NCR Plus first; NCR, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao first; and NCR Plus, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao first.

“Which would lead to the lowest number of pandemic cases, given the limited number of vaccines?” Father Nic asked. “We found that the most effective (priority) deployment would be in the NCR.”

* * *

The “NCR first” model involves vaccinating 70 percent of Metro Manila’s over-18 population – approximately 9.66 million – or 19.3 million doses of two-dose doses, as soon as possible. . If the government vaccine delivery schedule is on track, the required injections will be available by July. Over three months, 200,000 doses should be administered daily, says Father Nic.

Vaccinating 45 percent of the NCR’s population – roughly 6.21 million adults – may result in ‘containment’ of COVID, which Father Nic describes as the first step to ending the pandemic, allowing full economic reopening .

Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno actually told the Chiefs last week that whenever there is a spike or outbreak of COVID in the NCR, similar increases are usually recorded weeks later in the NCR. city.

Yet the “NCR first” vaccination scenario does not suit some local government leaders, especially those whose regions are currently struggling with a COVID outbreak. Iloilo town mayor Jerry Treñas told the Chiefs people should not be playing God and that he would never forget if more people die in his town because it was not on the list vaccine deployment priorities.

Asked for a comment, David, a math professor at UP, said: “I don’t agree that we are playing God. This is a scientific study and the decision is ultimately up to the national government… they don’t always follow the OCTA recommendation… It’s just a scientific model that Father (Nic) and his team have. undertaken.

He and Father Nic are urging policymakers to assess the science behind ‘NCR First’ and review their modeling, which has been published.

“There is no feeling of abandonment here. It’s a long-term perspective, to try to end the pandemic as quickly as possible, ”said Father Nic, adding that they were looking at six months to reach the goal.

“Whether it’s the head or the heart, you want to kill the snake, and we want to kill the snake as fast as possible so that we as a country can heal as fast as possible,” said Father Nic. “This is a scenario proposed by the scientific model.”

Dakila Cua, governor of Quirino and national president of the League of Provinces of the Philippines, said he wanted to look into modeling first. But he expressed his openness to the “NCR first” model. He said he could sell this to his constituents if it is insisted that it would be for the good of their province and the whole country.

Cua can view the scientific manuscript, which OCTA has uploaded to an international pre-print server. Father Nic says they can send the modeling manuscript to health and economics officials for review in policymaking. OCTA also intends to invite other scientists and experts, to see if the model can be improved.

In evaluating modeling, Guido David has an appeal: go with the science.


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About Gail Mena

Gail Mena

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