MBC urges gov't to accelerate vaccine purchases

The business sector has urged the Duterte administration to accelerate vaccine purchases and open vaccination to all Filipinos, including boosters, to ensure a safe reopening of the economy.

In a COVID Discussion Paper, the Makati Business Club (MBC) recommended that government accelerate vaccine purchases and to open vaccination to all Filipinos. The group, however, said that vaccine purchases should not only for the unvaccinated population but, as the science develops, for boosters. Boosters should probably go first to healthcare workers, whose immunity may be waning because they were the first to be vaccinated.

“Vaccination -- probably the most important part of the war against COVID -- has momentum, and we believe there are areas for improvement and acceleration,” said MBC Chairman Edgar O. Chua. “We also need to plan for the medium term: While the science is developing, we should assume we will need vaccination every year for the next few years. We need to organize ourselves to make sure we have the vaccines and can service everyone’s needs.”

In addition, the Makati-based business group said that vaccine allocation must be strategic and efficient, as well as more transparent to avoid any perception it is politicized; allowing LGUs and the private sector to buy more of their own vaccines; allowing businesses to mandate employees to be vaccinated; and for the government to considering requiring vaccination for its employees.

As the government allows the economy to reopen, MBC strongly recommends improvement of the hospital, isolation, and quarantine networks; the One Hospital Command; a unified digital contact tracing system; vaccine certification; and testing. The group also called on the government to resolve the issue of PhilHealth payments to hospitals, and improve healthcare worker pay and conditions to keep them from resigning, not bar them from leaving to work abroad.

“We cannot just vax our way to reopening and recovery,” Chua said. “We need physical facilities, tech-enabled systems, financially-viable hospitals, and healthcare workers who are properly paid and provided for. We can’t fight COVID without the hospitals, we can’t run the hospitals without healthcare workers.”

Finally, MBC welcomed the Department of Education’s announcement of a pilot program for a return to classroom schooling with appropriate protocols. “Now the agenda is to get it started and accelerate its expansion. We need to get the kids back in the classrooms, especially those who are short on devices, internet connection, and other resources. This is about theirs and our country’s future,” Chua said. MBC said the cost of remote schooling is far-reaching, including parents who have to leave work, a reduction in student’s future earnings, and a toll on decades of economic growth.