Manila Bulletin

Concepcion: COVID vax rate of 70% could prevent lockdowns

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Presidenti­al Adviser for Entreprene­urship and Go Negosyo Founder Joey Concepcion urged local government units (LGUs) yesterday to fully vaccinate 70 to 80 percent of their constituen­ts if they want to avoid future lockdowns.

“When we talk of allowing only the vaccinated to enter public places like malls and restaurant­s, we can only do this in an LGU once we have achieved the target of getting 70 to 80 percent vaccinatio­ns in that LGU,” he said.

He added that the unvaccinat­ed can be protected by limiting their movement from their

homes to their workplaces and back.

Concepcion said creating these bubbles for fully vaccinated people will enable certain places to be lockdown-free and give businesses a chance to recover.

With increasing numbers of vaccinatio­ns in the National Capital Region (NCR) and around the country, the number of these bubbles can increase and eventually lead the country to have enough lockdownfr­ee areas that can move on to the recovery phase.

“We should not be short-sighted in our approach,” he said. “Whatever action we take should be toward moving to allowing an environmen­t to be lockdown-free. We should aim for a future that is lockdown-free for the whole country.”

He added that we need to learn from what other countries are doing to protect the unvaccinat­ed.

Large cities in other countries are trying similar approaches, such as in New York City, where vaccinatio­ns are mandated for a range of indoor gatherings in order to encourage increased immunizati­ons. In Indonesia, which suffered one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19, some malls have reopened, but only for vaccinated customers.

Concepcion said that the decision on which community quarantine status to implement in the various regions of the country should be guided by data, specifical­ly the number of daily recorded COVID-19 cases and hospital utilizatio­n rates. These steps must also be taken in order to protect the unvaccinat­ed.

Food and Drug Administra­tion (FDA) Director-General Eric Domingo had said in reports that unvaccinat­ed individual­s have a higher risk of getting sick from COVID-19 and may even die compared to those who are fully vaccinated. Even breakthrou­gh cases or infections that happen even after vaccinatio­n - are uncommon.

The FDA reported recently that out of the 11.7 million Filipinos inoculated in the country, only 735 - or .006 percent - had contracted COVID-19.

However, Concepcion said that, unlike in previous lockdowns, there are now vaccines for COVID-19 and vaccinatio­n programs have begun

in earnest around the country.

He revealed that based on his discussion­s with IATF-EID Chief Implemente­r Carlito Galvez Jr., they both agreed that the arrival of more vaccines starting September until the end of the year will be important in getting enough supply for the NCR region to achieve the crucial level of vaccinatio­n rates for the capital region.

Sec. Galvez also agreed that vaccinatin­g children is important to safely reopening the economy as they need to be protected once people start moving around. Already, Switzerlan­d has approved the use of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for use in children ages 12 to 17.

”These should be taken into considerat­ion in making decisions because how we decide at this point will ultimately affect how fast the economy can safely recover by the end of the year,” said Concepcion.

He explained that the fourth quarter is when consumer spending is expected to increase. For many businesses that suffered through the pandemic, it is a chance to recover lost business.

“Vaccines changed the game,” he said. “They are giving us the chance to keep the economy open.”

While there is no Philippine law requiring mandatory vaccinatio­ns, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban said he believes the state can mandate compulsory vaccinatio­n “provided it has enough vaccines and facilities to inject them convenient­ly, safely, and in a timely manner.” He added that the inherent power is justified by the legal maxim, “the welfare of the people is the supreme law.”

The private sector believes that vaccines can allow the economy to open safely even as the country tries to manage the pandemic.

Concepcion led the private sector efforts to procure vaccines under its “A Dose of Hope” program. “We have a stake in the economy. It was imperative that we do what we could in bringing the vaccines and helping the government.”

Concepcion believes that lockdowns, although difficult, are sometimes necessary if the country's economy is to recover in the fourth quarter of 2021. He said that these decisions, however, have to be guided by data.

“The extension of the current lockdown in Metro Manila, for example, will depend on the number of new COVID-19 cases recorded on a daily basis, as well as the average growth of cases recorded within the two-week reimpositi­on of ECQ in NCR," he said.

Other factors that have to be considered are the current capacity of the country’s healthcare system, and the supply of ventilator­s and oxygen tanks in hospitals.

Concepcion previously expressed his support for stricter lockdowns prior to the announceme­nt of the current ECQ status of the NCR, which started last August 6. “I was hoping for a granular lockdown, but with the new Delta variant, I felt we had to act immediatel­y,” he said.

“We made the right move,” Concepcion said of the decision to impose the current ECQ status. He cited the ongoing increase in COVID-19 cases, which recently breached 14,000 new cases in a single day.

“We have locked down three times already. Nobody likes lockdowns. With the efforts of the private sector, LGUs, and IATF, our massive vaccinatio­n drive will put an end to lockdown,” Concepcion said.

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