I AM BACK! Good to share with you what I have been up to in my month-long hiatus from writing articles for this column.
I just arrived from Spain to go on the Camino de Santiago spiritual pilgrimage, after almost two years of delay because of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, the European Union, and even countries like our Motherland the Philippines, closed its borders to us, the people of the United States, because we were classified as high risk in spreading COVID-19 and its variants to their people.
The richest, most powerful nation in the world that other nations looked up to in our leadership in combatting infectious diseases became a hotspot of the pandemic, thanks but no thanks to the former administration’s failure in leadership because of its aversion to science. The former president and his minions thought the truth about the coronavirus pandemic was getting in the way of their political ambition to be re-elected and remain in power, and consequently, the United States failed to mitigate the spread of the virus early enough.
Thankfully, under the Biden Administration, saving lives became top priority again and science became our basis and tool in formulating policies and implementing programs to defeat the invisible enemy and lead us toward the “normal” life we have been missing.
Fast forward to the present, the Mayo Clinic reports that as of October 25, 66.7% of Americans are now vaccinated with at least one dose, and 57.7% are now fully vaccinated, especially in light of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in August.
CDC has also recommended everyone 12 years and older should get vaccinated to help protect against the virus. According to the agency, widespread vaccination is a critical tool to help stop the pandemic and help us go back to life as we knew it before 2020.
While compared to adults, fewer children have been infected with COVID-19, the CDC explained that children can also be infected with the virus, get sick and spread COVID-19 to others.
And because of the Delta variant and new scientific information about the diminishing antibody levels with time, the FDA on October 20 expands authorizations for COVID-19 vaccine booster doses for eligible populations who received Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and for Janssen COVID-19 vaccine recipients 18 and older.
As of press time today, October 26, the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee just announced an amendment to Pfizer-BioNTech’s Emergency Use Authorization of their COVID-19 mRNA vaccine to children 5 through 11 years of age. This decision comes after the agency reviewed data released by Pfizer on October 22 that showed a kid-sized, two-dose regimen of the Pfizer’s vaccine is safe and 90.7% effective against symptomatic illness from the virus in children ages 5 to 11 years old.
These new developments, coupled with a more unified effort to practice safety measures like wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding crowds, especially in indoor settings, have taken us to a more optimistic place with a greater fighting chance toward victory.
Hence, the EU has once again opened its borders to American tourists who are fully vaccinated with vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the EU that was why many of us in America have had the privilege of traveling again. We felt safe with strict implementation of other travel safety requirements like getting a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours for PCR and 48 hours for rapid test antigen, and wearing masks, observing social distancing.
The United States has also announced it is opening its borders to vaccinated international tourists, and this is great news for us to see our family and friends again from the Philippines and elsewhere around the world!
Starting on November 8, foreign national air travelers to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to fly to the United States, with only limited exceptions.
The CDC has determined that for the purposes of entry into the United States, vaccines accepted will include those FDA approved or authorized, as well as vaccines with an emergency use listing (EUL) from the World Health Organization (WHO). See the CDC’s website for more details.
Fully vaccinated air travelers will continue to be required to show documentation of a pre-departure negative viral test from a sample taken within three days of travel to the United States before boarding. That includes all travelers – U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs), and foreign nationals.
To further strengthen protections, unvaccinated travelers – whether U.S. citizens, LPRs, or the small number of excepted unvaccinated foreign nationals – will now need to show documentation of a negative viral test from a sample taken within one day of travel to the United States.
As the State Department stated, “As long as the virus is spreading anywhere, it is a threat to people everywhere, including Americans here at home. That’s why earlier this year, President Joe Biden announced that the United States will share over 580 million doses with countries around the world”.
“America will be the arsenal of vaccines in our global fight against COVID-19, just as America was the arsenal of democracy in World War II,” President Biden said.
Reclaiming our leadership in the international community that we lost during the Trump presidency, the Biden Administration recognizes the fact that “COVID-19 is a global challenge that requires a global response. Together, we will lead the world out of this pandemic.”
The State Department also stated: “The United Statuses exercising diplomatic leadership to mobilize an international response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its secondary impacts while strengthening global biosecurity infrastructure to address both the current crisis and future health-related threats.”
WE, the PEOPLE, should also be part of the solution and not the problem, and always think in terms of what is for the greater good, not just in the present time but always until the future.
This is what we need to learn more from Spain. During the time we were there, most of the people of Spain observed safety measures and would remind others, including tourists to follow the same, especially in enclosed places, for the safety of all people in their country.
Spain has vaccinated 80.2% of its population with at least one dose, and 78.6% are fully vaccinated. Nearing 90% of its target population, Spain has really been successful in controlling the spread of the virus. From an all-time high of 35,475 in January 2021, Spain is now down to a 7-day average of 1863. Spain has a population of 47,431, 256. Can we do the same?
Let us not go too far. Look at California — home to the most number of Filipinos in the U.S. and outside of the Philippines. Statewide, 72.6% of people in California are now fully vaccinated, with 7.8% partially vaccinated.
Of course, we can do more. We can do better. If we start thinking more of the good of all, less than what is good for me. If we keep on reminding ourselves this is the only patriotic and Christian way to go to save lives and go back to normalcy. Remember: we are all in this together.
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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.
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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos.