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Manila Bulletin - 2021-05-05

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Concepcion: Vaccination is ‘only solution’ to COVID-19 pandemic

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By RAYMUND ANTONIO

There is “no other solution” to the COVID-19 pandemic but the vaccines. Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Secretary Joey Concepcion stressed this on Tuesday, May 4, adding that the business community might be pushed to support Congress on making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory in the country. Concepcion, Go Negosyo founder and one of President Duterte’s trusted advisers, stressed the importance of achieving herd immunity, or the vaccination of at least 70 to 80 million Filipinos, to stop businesses from going under. “The only solution to our pandemic problem, in our economic problem, is the vaccine. Every citizen has to do their civic duty to take the vaccine. That’s the only way. There is no other solution,” he said during the Laging Handa public briefing. The latest survey said that six out of 10 Filipinos don’t want to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccine hesitancy remains to be a problem in the vaccination of senior citizens and people with comorbidities, the top two categories in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) priority list. Concepcion said that the government aims to reach 80 percent vaccine confidence and to roll out the vaccination program faster. He warned that employees of private companies that purchased COVID-19 vaccines through tripartite agreements with the government must take advantage of their access. “Kailangan mauna tayo sa mga variants kasi nagmu-mutate ‘yan (We need to a step ahead of the variants because they are mutating). So, the faster we implement then we can stop this infection from going all over,” Concepcion added. He revealed that the business sector might be inclined to support a House bill that seeks to make it mandatory for Filipinos to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The trigger will be if the vaccination drive will only inoculate 60 percent of the population and if private employees will not have themselves vaccinated. “We will support it (mandatory COVID-19 vaccination bill) kasi (because) if we don’t reach herd immunity masisira iyong bansa natin. Hindi lang tataas ‘yun infection, ang mangyayari dito maraming negosyo ang magsasarado (our country will be destroyed. Aside from the increase in infection, what will happen is that businesses will close),” Concepcion warned. “I think we would make drastic steps if I’m sure the government sees talagang (really) very low turnout. They will really find a way how to encourage. We are pushing hard every employee (to get inoculated),” he added. Mandatory vaccination nixed But Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said employers are ruling out any mandatory vaccination of workers as doing so would be a violation of human rights. “It is a right protected by the Constitution,” said Ortiz-Luis, noting that even to go war needs one’s consent. Ortiz-Luis said that if a person does not believe the vaccine can help him from severe COVID-19, he should not be forced to get a jab. To encourage workers to get vaccines, ECOP has undertaken vaccine information campaigns even at the company level to raise awareness on its health benefits. In addition, companies that did not participate in the tripartite vaccine procurement are mulling to import on their own so they can choose the preferred vaccines of their workers. Ortiz-Luis said he got his first dose of Sinovac although his first choice is Novavax from India. On April 26, House Bill No. 9252 or the proposed COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 was filed by Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., who said that “the State is mandated to make rules and regulations to protect the lives of the majority of its citizens.” The bill will mandate the “scienceand evidence-based” inoculation for persons “as may be determined” by the Department of Health (DOH). An exemption will cover those with medical conditions and people deemed by doctors to be safer without the vaccine. (With a report from Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat)

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