Galvez’s math leaves much to be desired

By: Solita Collas-Monsod - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | June 05,2021 - 08:00 AM

From the reports by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and NTF chair Carlito Galvez Jr. during President Duterte’s address to the nation last May 31, there seemed to be cause for celebration. The Philippines, at least from the perspective of two indicators, no longer seemed to be the laggard in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are these two indicators? (1) The “daily COVID-19 vaccine doses administered per 100 people,” from which Galvez concluded that the Philippines is now the best among the top five Asean members in giving jabs (150,000 jabs/day); and (2) the International Budget Partnership (IBP) report, from which Galvez concluded that this showed that there was no corruption in the vaccine procurement by the Philippine government.

Other slides (from Duque) showed that the Philippines was shaping up in the fight against COVID-19, with a marked decrease in the health care utilization rate (use of ICUs, ward beds, isolation beds, mechanical ventilators), nationally and more in the NCR. Although Duque also pointed out the regions where the pandemic was still raging, and had some very pointed recommendations (especially on detection and isolation) that needed to be enforced.

Galvez, however, was bursting with “good news.” I was impressed. After all, good news these days come few and far between. But I made the mistake of checking out his data sources, and was brought up short.

On the Philippines being the fastest jabber in the Asean, the source of data was Our World in Data, Statistics and Research on COVID-19 Vaccinations. It showed that from May 20 to May 26, the Philippines was second (to Thailand, and then to Malaysia) on jabs per 100 people. But starting May 27, the Philippines was number 3 out of 5. It never was on top. And I don’t see why Galvez’s slide would show such selective data, and ending on May 26, when his report was on May 31. Tchah. Then I went to the IBP site. Galvez was right that we were on top (with Australia, Norway, and Peru). But his conclusion that there was no corruption is definitely not indicated by the report. In fact, the IBP was not very happy, because “The main finding from our research is that governments are falling short of managing their fiscal policy response to the crisis in a transparent and accountable manner.”

Not one of the 120 countries surveyed showed levels of accountability in early COVID-19 fiscal policy responses that could be considered “Substantive,” the top level. The Philippines and three others showed an “Adequate” level of accountability. That is not exactly the paean which Galvez makes it to be. How he could come to the conclusion that the government was found to be sparkling clean in its fiscal responses to COVID-19 is beyond my ken.

Aside from these misinterpretations, Galvez had some exciting things to say about our fight against the pandemic, but then again he went too far. He said that as of the end of May, 5.1 million people had been vaccinated (starting from April). But he expects that figure to be matched in the month of June, and pointed to the fact that we have vaccinated 1 million people a week for two weeks straight as proof.

Do the math. We don’t have five weeks in a month, so I don’t see how we can achieve 5 million in June. Unless there has been an increase in efficiency at all levels.

His arithmetic leaves much to be desired. He said that 19 to 25 million people will represent “population protection” or a “disease burden reduction.” But he equated that with the vaccination of A1 (health workers), A2 (senior citizens), and A3 (people with comorbidities), which he said is almost finished. According to his slide, A1+A2+A3 total 3.96 million people. How does the vaccination of 4 million people equal the 19 to 25 million people that will constitute “population protection”?

Then he jumped to mass vaccination, saying that if the Philippines vaccinated 500,000 a day in the third quarter and 740,000 a day in the fourth quarter, which means 3.5 million and 5.18 million a week, a considerable jump from the 1 million a week we actually achieved for two weeks in May, then 70 million would have been fully vaccinated by the end of the year. I invite you to do the math, Reader.

Too much, General Galvez.

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TAGS: daily COVID-19 vaccine doses administered per 100 people, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, International Budget Partnership report, laggard in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, no corruption in the vaccine procurement of the Philippine government, NTF chair Carlito Galvez Jr.

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