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Following the entry of the new Omicron subvariant BA.2.12 into the country, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion repeated his call to redefine a ‘fully vaccinated’ status to mean having received a booster shot. “I must repeat the suggestion I made early this year and have been emphasizing since: ‘fully vaccinated’ must mean having completed the primary dose and at least one booster shot.,” he said.
The Go Negosyo founder again put forward the suggestion as warnings from experts grow stronger amidst low booster uptake and the emergence of new variants of the virus that causes Covid-19. “We are already seeing what the experts have predicted, and we already know what to do. Those who are eligible and vulnerable should already be taking their booster shots,” he said.
Experts, including those from the World Health Organization, said that the Philippines might experience a rise in Covid cases by May. During the recently concluded Go Negosyo townhall “Booster to the Max”, OCTA Research’s Dr. Guido David warned of a possible surge in May to June, resembling that of South Africa, while OCTA’s Fr. Nic Austriaco said any of the three new Omicron variants can trigger the surge.
“Some hybrid immunity is going to be waning,” Austriaco said. “If you did not get Omicron in January and you are primarily relying on vaccination and you are not boosted, this is the time for you to get boosted because your waning immunity will probably be not as strong in the face of these new variants …. The important thing right now is to get boosted,’ he said
“Filipinos need to be in the best state of protection in order to keep healthcare utilization rates down. Otherwise, the country risks rising hospitalizations and lockdowns which might stall momentum toward economic recovery,” Concepcion said. Emerging variants and sub-variants of the highly contagious Omicron variant could escape both acquired and vaccine-induced immunity, further strengthening the case for additional doses of the vaccine.
Concepcion said that other countries are now already realizing that primary vaccinations are not enough to combat emerging variants, prompting them to push booster vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explains in its website that being ‘fully vaccinated’ is not the same as having the best protection. “People are best protected,” said the CDC, “when they stay up to date with Covid-19 vaccinations, which includes getting boosters when eligible.”
“We must strive for Filipinos to be in their best state of protection. If they’re only half-protected, all of us stand to lose because we increase the probability of more people being hospitalized for severe Covid,” Concepcion said.
Healthcare utilization rate is an important indicator in determining whether or not an area will be put under stricter mobility restrictions or alert level status. “The Philippines can no longer afford to shut down its economy should Covid cases once again start flooding the country’s hospitals,” he said.
As a first step, Concepcion said the private sector is looking for ways to entice people back to vaccination centers. Among these are incentives-based schemes wherein customers who can show proof of a booster vaccination receive discounts and freebies from commercial establishments.
Concepcion pointed out that redefining ‘fully vaccinated’ as being in the best state of protection will have benefits down the line as people will become more conscientious about updating their vaccines for other diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis.
“Getting vaccinated and updating that vaccination with a booster shot is the least that a Filipino can do to contribute to preserving the country’s economy and protecting his fellow Filipinos. We have done it before when we got our primary vaccinations, so it should not be so difficult to do it again,” he said.
Medical experts are in agreement that the protection provided by vaccines can wane in as short as four months after the primary dose, necessitating a third, or booster, dose to restore protection against severe illness or death from Covid-19.