OF TREES AND FOREST
The next key step in our battle to fight the COVID-19 pandemic is to ensure that the vaccines can be administered to our people in the safest and fastest way possible. This is very important so that we can reduce infections and deaths due to the coronavirus.
But the vaccine will not only provide protection from the virus, it will also help boost consumer confidence. It will encourage people to go out again. This is very crucial as we attempt to bring back the jobs lost and the regain the momentum our economy lost during the lockdown. It is by helping each other during this time that we can start our journey to economic recovery.
This is the reason our company announced last week that we have signed an agreement, in partnership with the Philippine government, local government units, private sector donors, and AstraZeneca to bring 17 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to the country.
Currently, AstraZeneca together with Pfizer-BioNTech have already secured emergency authorization from the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is the first step towards ensuring that the vaccines are safe. These are companies that have run rigorous trials of their vaccines. They have, in fact, started vaccination using these two vaccines from the US and those from the UK and other countries. According to government authorities, the country is finalizing agreements with other companies such as Moderna, Novavax, Johnson and Johnson, Sinovac, and Russian medical research institute Gamaleya.
I have written about this before but it bears repeating here—we need to procure vaccines that have been proven safe by science and peer-reviewed studies. This will help a lot in increasing public confidence in the vaccines. There is no point is purchasing millions of doses if majority of the public will refuse vaccination because of safety fears, real or imagined.
Once we are assured of their safety, we should ensure that these vaccines reach our people at the soonest possible time. The COVID-19 task force has already come up with a resolution presented by the Interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group and the DOH Technical Advisory Group on the priority sectors for vaccination.
The priority sectors include: frontline workers in health facilities, senior citizens aged 60 years old and above, persons with comorbidities, frontline personnel in essential sectors including uniformed personnel, and indigent population. The task force has also designated “priority regions” which includes NCR, Calabarzon, Davao Region, Cordillera Administrative Region, Eastern Visayas, and Central Luzon. NCR is top of the list not because of the “imperial Manila” syndrome but simply because a great majority of infections are located here in the capital.
Government needs to tap the private sector in making sure that the vaccines reach most of our people at the fastest possible time. We cannot afford to have bureaucratic red tape slow down the distribution of the vaccines. Businesses can provide vaccines, at no expense to the government, to their employees as efficiently as possible. This is crucial if we want to ensure fast economic recovery.
I totally agree with the priority groups and regions and I also believe that economic frontliners should get the vaccines at the soonest possible time. Those who sell their goods, company employees who face thousands of consumers on a daily basis should be protected in order to decrease the possibility of further viral transmission.
This way with most of the public and the economic frontliners vaccinated, we can fast-track the economic recovery our country badly needs. The post-pandemic period requires unleashing economic activities that have been shackled by the lockdown. This is only possible if we have a healthy, vaccinated population ready to revive the economy.