Business groups support booster proposal

The Philippines’ biggest business groups backed the proposal to replace vaccination cards with booster cards as a requirement starting June this year, citing the need for the country to remain economically healthy and withstand the looming threat of new variants of the SARS-Cov2 virus.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion (Screenshot from PTV)

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion aired the proposal to set an expiry date on vaccination cards and replace these with booster cards to encourage Filipinos to get their booster shots.

The groups that expressly supported the proposal are Philippine Franchise Association, Philippine Retailers Association, Philippine Marketing Association, Philippine Association of Legitimate Service Contractors, Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Makati Business Club, Financial Executives Institute, American Chamber of Commerce, European Chamber of Commerce, Indian Chamber of Commerce the Nagkakaisang Samahan ng Nangangasiwa ng spa lalawigan Bus sa Pilipinas, as well as groups representing salon/spa owners, amusement park owners, and concert venues/organizers.

Airline companies and restaurant groups, meanwhile, said they will be promoting boosters through incentives. Other groups are also studying and considering their support.

Concepcion, however, stressed that the booster card requirement should be implemented only after people have had enough time to get their booster shots. This to address concerns that the proposal might discourage mobility, he said.

Specifically, the proposal gives people 60 days to get their boosters once the IATF finalizes the resolution. It will also allow all persons regardless of priority category to get their booster shots.

It is also being proposed that booster cards become the proof of vaccination for use in registering on VAXCERT.PH.

At the Laging Handa Public Briefing, Concepcion explained that the effectiveness of the first two doses are waning in 5 to 6 months, thus the need for booster shots by June or at least after the election as more Covid-19 variants are discovered in other countries.

“We should not be over confident, we are protecting the future,” Concepcion stressed. The country’s Covid cases have been on a decline reaching to just over 300 cases daily. Most of the regions are already under Alert Level 1, the most relaxed form of restrictions, resulting in the reopening of the domestic economy at full operating capacity.

“Let us not lose the momentum,” Concepcion said warning that if the booster rate will continue to be low, there is the tendency of a surge and a complication from the impact of the war in Ukraine war.

“We cannot pay our debts if growth weakens because Filipinos have not taken the boosters,” he said.

At below 10 percent booster rate, he warned, the Philippines would be at risk.

The proposal was earlier backed by National Task Force (NTF) adviser Dr. Ted Herbosa, who noted that while the country has a “good vaccination record” considering more than 65 million of its citizens have fully vaccinated, only 11.8 million individuals have received their boosters. The booster proposal has gained traction following news that 27 million vaccines will expire by July if left unused.

Concepcion last week said that the country risks higher cases of Covid in the second half of 2022 unless more Filipinos get vaccinated and those eligible for additional doses receive their booster shots. The Go Negosyo founder warned of a double-whammy in the second semester if the Russia-Ukraine crisis drags on and sends commodity prices higher and disrupts the global supply chain.

“Right now there is no danger. The danger is in the next semester when the waning immunity might be felt already. And this is not counting the possibility that new variants might emerge,” he said. Concepcion also observed that the Philippines is currently one of the few countries in Asia that is being spared from a surge in cases. However, there are concerns that as the country opens its borders to more foreign visitors, this might contribute to possible increase in cases. People are also starting to lower their guard and removing their masks as normal activities, such as eating out, resume.

“We in the business community know only too well how important it is to keep the economy open, not just for our own businesses but for the entire economy,” he said. The Philippines recently breached the Php12-trillion mark in its national debt as it borrowed for its pandemic response efforts. “We will have wasted US$200 million if we let the vaccines go to waste. That’s money we can’t afford to waste,” he said.

Concepcion added that the government is already doing all it can to bring vaccinations closer to people. “The real barrier here is citizens who are putting off their boosters or are rejecting them altogether,” he said.

“We already know what might happen if we don’t act, and we know what needs to be done. “If we close down again in the second semester, we risk losing our gains in the last two years,” he said. “This can be entirely preventable if we act now.”