Tuesday, December 6, 2022

1,151 Small Steps Forward

by Zarelle Glen Dorothy A. Villanzana | October 26, 2021

Just as the palms of their tiny hands were once their mere support for moving about, the friction now lies between the floor and the soles of their feet. 1,151 vaccinated minors in Manila are now walking towards the hope of a better tomorrow.

Seven months have passed since the first COVID-19 vaccination in the Philippines last March. With high spirits and breaths of relief, it seemed to be the first glimmer of light to shine upon the faces of the citizens, especially those who waited so long for the vaccine. After a series of registrations, standing in long lines, and taking photos in front of a tarpaulin with the promotion, Resbakuna, the children who watched from the sidelines knew that someday, it shall be their turn too. Finally, the other week, the first pediatric vaccination took place. 

1,151. This was the number of 15 to 17-year-olds who were successfully inoculated. For these lucky few, the long days of anticipation are finally over. Nearer is the sight of school campus doors swinging open, the marching of footsteps filling in the once deafening vacuum of the hallways, and the splash of vibrant cheers and heartfelt exchanges as familiar faces rush in to greet each other by the gates. What had long been the anticipation for the “best years of one’s life” to commence, now actually has the possibility of happening. 

The first batch of youngsters to receive their shots now join hands with the other 29 million of the country’s partially vaccinated population. Expectedly, there will be more to come as the goal for herd immunization was set to 80-90%. Transmission of the virus would become less likely to occur and the community will be much more protected as additional citizens receive their doses. With this, the livelihood of others could resume. A life behind monitor screens returning to a life on public streets would also create a surge in employment, allowing the country’s economy to regain its growth. 

This pediatric vaccination’s success truly opens up many possibilities. It does not only affect the lives of the students, but also a significant portion of the population who need the same thing: a face-to-face setup.

A national survey last November 2020 showed that 89% of Filipino families find remote learning much more difficult than actual classes. Additionally, as the Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones had stated during a briefing last February, the students themselves were the biggest supporters of the face-to-face setup. She said it was the school’s atmosphere which they missed among many others. Perhaps, that is true.

Such memorable events used to happen in school territories. Even the most mundane scenes are worth mentioning: the sight of courts while playing alongside teammates and watching other athletes practice; the touch of one’s fingers along the spines of library books while friends wait on your from the desks; the overpriced snacks from the cafeteria bought with some barya from generous classmates; the classroom shenanigans resulting to a chorus of laughter preceded by possible remarks from teachers; the school events where the search for one’s crush embarks, sparking a feeling of kilig as their eyes fall in contact with yours; and most importantly, the wearing of togas and the tossing of caps which conclude one’s entire high school life. These are just a few of the many retrospections brought by almost two years of distant learning.

Among the 1.2 million comorbid children still waiting in line for vaccination, the first thousand supplies us with another glimmer of hope that, although transitory, gives us further anticipation for the healing of our nation. 

Still, longer roads are to be trodden on while bigger numbers have yet to be faced. Distant may we be from the destination, but as of today, we are given 1,151 small steps forward. In due time, we will arrive.

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