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Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion believes that the Philippines can head off the 300,000 active Covid cases being projected by the World Health Organization by May by ramping up vaccinations, especially among the 53 million Filipinos who have yet to be boostered.
This comes as the international body warned that the Philippines risks a steep rise in cases if it continues to neglect public health standards. The Department of Health (DOH) has already noted the gradual increase of Covid-19 cases in 14 areas across the country.
The Philippines currently has 67 million fully vaccinated individuals, still short by 23 million from its target of 90 million. In addition, it has a little over 53 million individuals comprising seniors, teenagers aged 12 to 17, and adults who have yet to receive their booster shots.
“There are around 27 million vaccines expiring in July and 53 million more in storage,” said Concepcion. “That’s more than enough for our needs,” he said.
During the weekly Laging Handa public briefing on April 20, Concepcion expressed concern that if people waited for Covid cases to rise before getting their boosters, it might be too late. “Why take the risk?,” he asked. “We should realize the whole implication here.”
“Habang marami tayong bakuna, halos 80 million, kunin na natin ang booster natin. Let’s maintain the wall of immunity, at huwag sayangin ang bakuna,” he said. “Let’s protect ourselves and allow the economy to grow and help our citizens.”
Concepcion put forward the following suggestions to help spur vaccinations: require booster cards, put an expiry date on primary vaccination cards, and allow first boosters for 12 to 17 year-olds, and a second booster for the vulnerable population as soon as possible.
In relation to this, Go Negosyo intensified its campaign to promote booster vaccinations and released on several media platforms its campaign to encourage Filipinos to get vaccinated and, when eligible, get their booster shots. In its campaign, Go Negosyo notes that as of April 13, only 13.7 percent of Filipinos have received their booster shots; this despite 74.1 percent having already been fully vaccinated.
Among the medical experts included in the campaign are DOH Secretary Francisco Duque; Philippine College of Physicians president Dr. Maricar Limpin; the Vaccine Expert Panel’s Dr. Nina Gloriani and Dr. Rontgene Solante; IATF special adviser Dr. Ted Herbosa; infectious diseases expert Dr. Edsel Salvana; former DOH Secretary Dr. Esperanza Cabral; OCTA Research fellows Dr. Benjamin Co, Fr. Nic Austriaco and Prof. Guido David; Philippine Society of Pathologists president Dr. Roberto Padua; and health reform advocate Dr. Tony Leachon.
“Cases are moving up. This may be due to waning immunity as the booster uptake remains very poor,” said Concepcion. “We’re trying to prevent people from getting severely ill and overwhelming the healthcare system. We want to maintain the Alert Level 1 status, but we need people to stay healthy and keep the engines of the economy running,” he said.
The threat of a resurgence in infections was echoed by several of the medical experts included in the Go Negosyo campaign. They also raised the possibility of variants contributing to a possible surge in cases, and how booster shots can provide added protection even in the face of new variants. In addition to the vaccines, incentives and restrictions were also put forward by some of the experts as effective methods of spurring more vaccinations.
“Filipinos cannot afford to be complacent,” said Concepcion. “As we’ve seen in the experience of other countries, the primary vaccinations do not guarantee that the antibodies will not wane over time. While vaccines do protect us from severe illness and death, these have to be kept up-to-date,” he said.