There is a striking contrast to the decisions made by the City of Puerto Princesa and the provincial government of Palawan on the handling of a vaccination roll-out for their respective constituents. The city government was among the first local government units to sign an agreement with AstraZeneca for an initial 200,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines expected to be delivered this month at the earliest. The province, for its part, announced this week it is confident of a February vaccination schedule for the municipalities, with the assurance of support from the national government and thus sees no need to pursue an independent purchase of the vaccines.

The city administration had chosen a conservative tack of not relying on the national government’s ability to deliver on its promise. It announced setting aside a rather oversized budget portfolio of P500 million for its vaccine shopping, a budget that was comparatively larger than any other LGU had set aside for theirs on a per capita basis. The underlying message to this decision-making is one of self reliance.

The provincial government’s action was hinged on a pragmatic view that the national government will deliver. Nevertheless, it also announced it is prepared to spend anywhere from P1 billion, according to a random interview from a member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to P5 billion according to separate press statement of Capitol, for vaccine purchases.

The provincial government is taking the whole process in casual stride. As of this week according to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), it is the only province in the MIMAROPA region that has yet to have an approved roll-out plan, a requirement which the administration stated is still in its “micro-level planning stage.” The late submission of its COVID-19 rollout plan raises valid concerns whether Palawan deserves to be first in line among the region’s LGUS for the national government’s distribution, if it comes to a point that the supply of vaccines available for the country is not enough and needs to be dispersed based on a set of priorities.

On the backdrop of the government’s national vaccination program is a significant element of the unknown, taking into account the fact that these vaccines are being deployed rather prematurely and for emergency considerations in lieu of more conclusive human trials. This consideration underscores a subjective distrust of the vaccines from a significant slice of the population, a concern that is recognized by health authorities and thus needs to be addressed by an information campaign to encourage the population to accept the vaccines.