Concepcion: Include 50-year-olds in 2nd round of booster shots to protect productivity

Published May 19, 2022, 4:44 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

As the Department of Health (DOH) expanded the coverage of Covid-19 vaccine’s booster shots, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said that while this is a welcome development, the real threat of Covid infections remains among the country’s working sector, particularly those aged 50 and above.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion (Screenshot from PTV)

In a statement, Concepcion said the virus mainly threatens the country’s economy, which relies on a healthy working population. However, he lamented that the current second booster guidelines do not cover the economically productive.

Concepcion said that the guidelines for second booster shots adopted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) extend the eligible age to 50 years or older. Current Philippine guidelines peg eligibility for second boosters to senior citizens or those who are 60 years and older.

“The main threat here is to the country’s economy, which is dependent on protecting the health of people who are of working age,” he said.

He added that by including those who are 50 years old and older, some 9.5 million Filipinos – most of whom are still active members of the workforce – stand to benefit from the additional protection afforded by a second booster shot.

Concepcion also cited the insights given by medical experts during a meeting organized by Go Negosyo with the private sector last May 16.

“Variants will come and go, but the main concern is productivity,” public health expert Dr. Tony Leachon said.

Leachon explained that although Covid infections may not be so severe that they require hospitalization, it means lost productivity because the patient will need to isolate.

Moreover, increased infections have raised concerns about the effects of long Covid-19 or post-Covid conditions. The condition is marked by various symptoms, including shortness of breath, fever, fatigue, headaches, and other neurological disorders. These can last for months or longer, and little is known about how the different variants and sub-variants affect the probability and severity of long coronavirus symptoms.

OCTA Research fellow Dr. Michael Tee, a rheumatologist, echoed a similar concern. Although vaccines work even with variants, 20 to 40 percent of patients who get Covid-19 would likely experience prolonged muscle and joint pain, affecting their productivity.

Concepcion said there is an increased risk of losing productive workforce members when they suffer from Covid-19 or when they are forced to isolate themselves. This can be remedied if more Filipinos can get a second booster shot.

He said that Go Negosyo intends to push for more booster vaccinations through its “Booster to the Max” campaign, continuing its advocacy to save lives and livelihoods through vaccinations.

“Our economy is on an upswing, and we can’t afford any disruptions, either with higher alert levels or lower productivity. We must do everything we can to keep the country healthy, and the economy will follow,” he said.