Concepcion: Vaccinating workers key to full economic recovery

Published April 29, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Vaccinating the employed sector even to the point of making it mandatory is the only solution for the full reopening and recovery of the battered domestic economy, said Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and GoNegosyo founder Joey Concepcion. 

He issued this statement following the filing of House Bill No. 9252, the proposed COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of  2021 that seeks to make mandatory among Filipinos vaccination against COVID-19. The bill was filed by Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., and mandates “science- and evidence-based” inoculation for persons” as may be determined” by the Department of Health (DOH). 

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and GoNegosyo founder Joey Concepcion. (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“Let’s not wait for legislation that will make vaccines mandatory,” said Concepcion. “But it will come to that point if the turnout is poor,” he said.

Concepcion believes that zeroing in and vaccinating the employed sector will have a greater multiplier effect as it would also enable businesses to resume operations and consequently set the country back on track to recover from the losses brought on by the pandemic.

In light of this, Concepcion appealed to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to take a stronger stance and enjoin the employed sector to take the vaccine seriously. “We expect the vaccines to be here by June, and if that happens and the turnout is still low, I don’t think we will be able to win this battle,” he said.

He also called on DOLE to enjoin and encourage employees to take the vaccine. “It is the only solution that will allow us to open the economy,” he said, adding that face masks and physical distancing only serve to buy time, and are not the solution to the pandemic. 

Vaccines have faced the twin challenges of a slow rollout due to global shortages of supply and vaccine hesitancy among Filipinos. 

He cited a survey conducted from February to March this year by Pulse Asia found that more than half – or 61 percent – of Filipinos would refuse to be inoculated against COVID-19.

Concepcion’s Let’s GO Bakuna Campaign is trying to address the problem of vaccine misinformation and hesitancy through vaccine education forums designed to boost confidence in the vaccines. 

To be launched in time for Labor Day, the Let’s GO Bakuna campaign includes a series of webinars and townhall meetings, a multi-platform publicity push featuring expert advice and testimonials. It has the cooperation of more than 1,000 private companies.

Concepcion emphasized the role of supervisors in convincing rank-and-file to get themselves inoculated against COVID-19. “[Employers] can only do so much. We want the employees to support this. We cannot solve the problem if the employers are doing their best but the employees are not supporting it,” he said. 

The recent surge in cases from March to April this year has nearly pushed the Philippines’s healthcare system to the brink. The country recently passed the one-million mark in COVID-19 cases recorded, with the country’s National Capital Region and nearby provinces being once again subjected to strict quarantine lockdowns.

Concepcion said getting citizens vaccinated against COVID-19 can be likened to conscripting them to fight a war for the country: “The country is at war with an invisible enemy and people need to be vaccinated in order to win the war. Our only weapon is the vaccine. If we don’t protect ourselves and those around us, how do we expect to overcome this challenge?”

“Vaccination is the only way we can get through this pandemic,” he said, “and vaccinating the employed sector will expedite the country’s return to economic recovery.”

“If we want our employment to go up, then we must really open the economy and the only way is to bring down the level of infections. The only way to do that is through vaccines,” he said.