Vaccine not mandatory, but no guarantee for PBA to kick off 46th season

- Josef Ramos

HAVING the entire Philippine Basketball Associatio­n (PBA) family inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine is not mandatory for the league to kick off its 46th season.

But it’s also no guarantee for the league to whistle a jump ball without an approval from the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

“The PBA still needs to request for an approval from the IATF to operate, even though they get the vaccines” Presidenti­al Spokespers­on Harry Roque said. “A vaccine won’t guarantee them [to hold games] if the Covid-19 cases are still high.”

PBA Commission­er Willie Marcial earlier announced that the league is securing Astrazenec­a vaccines to compliment team owner Manuel V. Pangilinan’s commitment to have the PBA family inoculated. But the vaccines, Marcial said, are not expected to be procured in earnest.

Vivencio “Vince” Dizon, the Deputy Chief Implemente­r of the National Action Plan Against Covid-19, also stressed that the rate of infections will determine whether or not the PBA could operate close to how it was before the pandemic.

“It all depends on the situation,” said Dizon, adding that having fans who already got the vaccine in arenas would still need to evaluated by the IATF.

At the moment though, Dizon said the PBA would have to wait for its vaccines as government is keeping its policy on who to prioritize for vaccinatio­n.

“The players need to wait because the prioritiza­tion of the vaccine is very strict due to the limited supply,” Dizon said. “If the vaccine will [come] from the private sectors, it will arrive in the country by the second half of 2021.” The PBA targeted an April 18 opening for its 46th season but this was scrapped when the enhanced community quarantine was extended for a week until April 11 as virus infections remain in alarming level especially in the Greater Manila Area.

PBA Chairman Ricky Vargas of TNT Tropang Giga said a May opening would still be ideal for the league’s plan to hold two conference­s this year.

Dizon said the IATF hasn’t receive any recent request from the PBA for its planned resumption, but expressed hope that the league would be back in action.

“The vaccine is important, but we already proved that we can do a safe bubble,” said Dizon, referring to the Clark bubble in Pampanga which the PBA and the Bases Conversion and Developmen­t Authority successful­ly staged in the last quarter of 2020.

The PBA, however, dropped the bubble because of its exorbitant cost and opted for a closed circuit setup— home-gym-home—with the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo City as venue. The PBA spent P60 million on the Clark bubble.

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