Tribute to a hero

Tribute to a hero

For rising above themselves and serving a greater cause, individuals are regarded as heroes. There is no need for an official proclamation: ophthalmologist Jose Rizal is a national hero, taking a bullet for Filipinos 125 years ago today, in an act that galvanized the struggle for independence from Spanish colonial rule.

In another era, three other Filipinos were executed by the Japanese for resisting the foreign occupation: chief justice Jose Abad Santos, suffragette and Girl Scouts of the Philippines organizer Josefa Llanes Escoda and Gen. Vicente Lim. Erasing them from Philippine banknotes would not erase their heroism.

Today the country is once again at war, against an invisible but deadly foe that has killed over 5.4 million people worldwide, 51,000 of them Filipinos, and sickened nearly 283 million globally as of yesterday. It took a year for scientists to develop a weapon against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that sprung out of China’s Wuhan City to bring illness and death to the planet.

The main weapon is the COVID vaccine, and there are 10 types approved so far by the World Health Organization for global emergency use. There are the revolutionary, cutting-edge mRNA vaccines of Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna as well as the adenovirus vector jabs of Oxford / AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, which were produced in record time. For those wary of new vaccine technology, there are the traditional shots developed by China’s state-owned Sinopharm and private company Sinovac.

As in any war, there are multiple weapons against COVID-19. Combined with vaccination, the WHO is constantly reminding the public about the importance of observing minimum health protocols. Masking, physical distancing, cough/cold and hand hygiene are meant to prevent the coronavirus from finding new hosts.

Vaccination, the WHO warns, does not mean people can throw caution to the wind. The consequences are evident in countries with high vaccination rates that lifted mask mandates and eased other COVID restrictions as cases plummeted. This week the United States, the United Kingdom and France are seeing record highs in daily new COVID cases, with the exceedingly transmissible Omicron variant seen as the culprit.

Battling this threat requires the use of all the weapons available: get vaccinated, get boosted, keep your mask on, maintain a safe distance and wash hands regularly. It can save your life and those of your loved ones, and it is a great way to pay tribute to the nation’s heroes led by Dr. Jose Rizal. Everyone can be a hero in this once-in-a-century war.