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With 1,516,040 vaccines expiring at the end July, members of the private sector, led by Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion, are appealing once again to the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) to allow the private sector to allow second boosters to help in achieving President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s goal of administering at least 23 million booster shots within his first hundred days in office.
“If you look at these expiring vaccines, that’s a lot of money,” Concepcion said during the Pandesal Forum last July 19. The expiring vaccines were acquired by the private sector through the tripartite agreement A Dose of Hope. Each AstraZeneca jab is estimated to cost at least US$5 each, while Moderna shots were bought for around US$27 for each dose. The total expiring vaccines in warehouses are broken down as follows: Moderna (887,360) and AstraZeneca (628,680). Under the tripartite agreement, half of the vaccines acquired are shared with the government.
“The private sector has already proven that it is willing to get vaccinated. There is no need for mandates when it comes to the private sector. They don’t want to get sick and use up their sick leaves.”
“Yes we have to focus on the first boosters, but the private sector bought these vaccines,” he said. “This is my frustration.”
Concepcion has been asking that second boosters be allowed to protect members of the workforce who are still not allowed to take second boosters. “The sense of urgency is not there,” said Concepcion. “Government is trying to do its best, but there is this body that is moving quite slow,” he said. He suggested that the National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) should take on the role of the HTAC when it comes to vaccines.
The HTAC, a body tasked with providing guidance to the Department of Health (DOH) on the coverage of health interventions and technologies to be funded by the government, has recommended that only healthcare workers, the immunocompromised and persons above 60 years old can take second booster vaccinations against Covid-19.
“Where we are concerned, and I think everybody should be concerned, is the economy,” he said. “The vaccines are our most important weapon here,” he said. Resolving issues with policy on second boosters and takeup will help the private sector in its future vaccine procurement, he said.
Concepcion said that many countries around the world have already found that persons younger than 60 can benefit from second boosters, and suggested that the country follow the lead of those who have studied the merits of second boosters. These include Australia, Canada’s Ontario province. US health officials are planning to allow second Covid-19 boosters for all adults, with the US Food and Drug Administration making second boosters a high priority to include those outside of their previous recommendations for persons 50 years and older and those 12 years and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised.
“Shouldn’t we follow these countries? The vaccines we are using came from these countries,” he said.
“The vaccines should be used rather than left to expire,” Concepcion said. “Many productive members of the workforce fall outside of the age limit set by the HTAC. Yet they also have risk factors and are exposed to the virus every day when they come to work,” Concepcion said.
Second booster vaccinations using mRNA vaccines were allowed in the Philippines only in mid-May, two months after the US CDC updated its own guidelines to include even those as young as 50 years old.