The government needs to speed up the delivery of the third COVID-19 vaccine dose not only to strengthen people’s immunity from the disease but also to boost confidence in the economy.
“I think it will be difficult to go to Alert Level 0 until about 80 to 90 percent of our people have their booster shots,” said presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion.
“The slow booster vaccination may have an impact on the economy in the second half and may lead to another surge in COVID cases.”
He said while primary vaccinations are close to 100 percent in the National Capital Region and surrounding provinces, the rate of booster shots administered is slower, at 30 percent.
“We need to focus our energy on deploying the third dose,” he said.
Many areas in Regions 5 to 10 have a very low booster vaccination rate of under 10 percent.
Concepcion noted there are vaccines that are near expiry and may be good until June 2022 only so the government should move faster to use the remaining vaccines.
Areas with high primary dose rate should immediately roll out the booster vaccines while those areas with slow roll-out of primary shots should focus on having these first two doses administered, he said.
He warned that the likelihood of having another surge in the second semester is high since the inoculation of booster vaccines has been lagging or stalled in some areas.
While the government is still grappling for measures to bring booster vaccines to the public, the private sector is now working on having its fourth vaccination or a 2nd booster shot for private company employees.
He said there are enough vaccines from private sector procurement that may be used for the fourth jab, either in May or June.
He added the private sector is willing to provide the second booster to their employees to keep the business momentum.
“What is of concern here is how the government can provide for the public, the citizens to have their fourth shot.”
He also called on the public to get their booster shots and keep the walls of immunity high.
The Philippines logged a total of 2,726 new COVID-19 cases from March 21 to March 27, lower by 24 percent than the previous weekly tally.
Based on the Department of Health’s (DOH) weekly case bulletin, the daily case average for the week was 389.
From March 14 to March 20, the country logged 3,572 new COVID-19 infections, with a daily case average of 510, the DOH reported.
Data also showed that 758 severe and critical cases are currently admitted.
Of 3,204 intensive care unit (ICU) beds, 15.1 percent were occupied, while 16.7 percent of the 27,547 non-ICU COVID-19 beds were in use.
Among the new infections this week, none were severe or critical cases.
More than 65.6 million people or 72.93 percent of the government’s
target population are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The DOH said 11.8 million have received their booster shots.
At least 6.5 million senior citizens or 75.56 percent of the target A2 population have also received their primary vaccine series.
There were also 752 more verified deaths last week, the DOH said.
Also on Monday, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) said it has provided some P46 million worth of laboratory equipment to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), aimed at assisting the Philippines in its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The equipment includes a pharmaceutical refrigerator, an automated immunoassay analyzer, and a deep freezer to boost the RITM’s capacity in detecting and treating COVID-19 cases.
The equipment was turned over on Thursday, March 24, at the DOH with Japan Ambassador to the Philippines Koshikawa Kazuhiko and JICA
Philippines Chief Representative Sakamoto Takema.
“The assistance complements our other support to Philippine COVID-19 recovery efforts including the grant finance and technical cooperation for cold chain storage and logistics as well as rapid antigen test kits to be distributed to the [DOH] in the coming weeks,” Sakamoto said.
“JICA hopes to make a certain contribution to a resilient health care system in the Philippines,” Sakamoto added.
JICA also earlier granted a JPY50-billion COVID-19 Crisis Response Emergency Support Loan, and another JPY50-billion JICA Post-Disaster
Standby Loan Phase 2 to the Philippines, equivalent to a total of P44 billion.
JICA also earlier provided laboratory equipment for testing, diagnoses, and treatment of the San Lazaro Hospital.