GO Negosyo founder Jose Maria "Joey" Concepcion 3rd on Tuesday reiterated his appeal to the government to approve second booster shots as some 1.5 million Covid-19 vaccines purchased by the private sector are set to expire by the end of July.

In a statement, Concepcion once again asked the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) to allow the private sector's recommendation to help achieve President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s goal of administering at least 23 million booster shots within his first hundred days in office.

"If you look at these expiring vaccines, that's a lot of money," he said during the Pandesal forum on Tuesday.

The expiring vaccines were acquired by the private sector through the tripartite agreement A Dose of Hope.

Each AstraZeneca jab is estimated to cost at least $5 each, while Moderna shots were bought for around $27 for each dose.

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The total expiring vaccines in warehouses are broken down as follows: Moderna (887,360) and AstraZeneca (628,680).

Under the tripartite agreement, half of the vaccines acquired are shared with the government.

"The private sector has already proven that it is willing to get vaccinated. There is no need for mandates when it comes to the private sector. They don't want to get sick and use up their sick leaves," Concepcion said.

"Yes we have to focus on the first boosters, but the private sector bought these vaccines. This is my frustration," he added.

The Go Negosyo founder has been asking that second boosters be allowed to protect members of the workforce who are still not permitted to take second boosters.

"The sense of urgency is not there. Government is trying to do its best, but there is this body that is moving quite slow," he said.

Concepcion suggested that the National Vaccination Operations Center should take on the role of the HTAC when it comes to vaccines.

The HTAC, a body tasked with providing guidance to the Department of Health on the coverage of health interventions and technologies to be funded by the government, has recommended that only health care workers, the immuno-compromised and persons above 60 years old can take second booster vaccinations against Covid-19.

"Where we are concerned, and I think everybody should be concerned, is the economy. The vaccines are our most important weapon here," Concepcion said.

"Resolving issues with policy on second boosters and take-up will help the private sector in its future vaccine procurement," he added.

The Go Negosyo founder said many countries around the world have already found that persons younger than 60 can benefit from second boosters, and suggested that the Philippines follow the lead of those who have studied the merits of second boosters, among them Australia and Canada's Ontario province.

American health officials are planning to allow second Covid-19 boosters for all adults, with the US Food and Drug Administration making second boosters a high priority to include those outside of their previous recommendations for persons 50 years and older and those 12 years and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised.

"Shouldn't we follow these countries? The vaccines we are using came from these countries. The vaccines should be used rather than left to expire," Concepcion said.

"Many productive members of the workforce fall outside of the age limit set by the HTAC. Yet they also have risk factors and are exposed to the virus every day when they come to work," he added.

Second booster vaccinations were allowed in the Philippines only in mid-May, two months after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its own guidelines to include even those as young as 50 years old.

OCTA Research fellow Dr. Guido David also on Tuesday said the number of Covid-19 cases is rising nationwide, especially in the Visayas and Mindanao, but that it might have already peaked in the National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila) with the decline in positivity rate in the past two days.

"If we look at the daily positivity rate, the highest [in the past seven days] was on July 15 at 14 percent and has decreased two days in a row [at 12.5 and 12.0 percent] in the NCR. This is promising; it does not guarantee that this is the peak, but it could be," he added.

David explained that OCTA normally waits for a week before they see a trend of continuous decrease, as this two-day trend may be reversed.

He noted that the current Covid-19 testing was not as high compared with previous surges — only half of the tests done in January 2022 and one-third of the tests conducted during the Delta variant surge in 2021.

Another OCTA Research fellow, Ranjit Rye, during the Pandesal forum, encouraged the public to get vaccinated against Covid-19 if they have not yet been jabbed and received their first booster shot once eligible as protection against the more transmissible BA.5 variant, especially with the reopening of schools for in-person classes for the incoming school year.

"Our position in OCTA is 'Isa pa, isa pa para sa mga bata, isa pa para sa ating pamilya, isa pa para sa ating bayan (One more, one more for the children, one more for our families, one more for the country). That is our campaign now and we encourage everyone to consider having their children and themselves boosted [against Covid-19] at least once," he said.

Rye gave assurances that booster doses offer protection against the virus through a wall of immunity.

He said observance of public health measures is also important to prevent further Covid-19 transmission.

OCTA, together with the Advisory Council of Experts established by Concepcion, supports the call to simplify the alert level system to make it easier for the public to understand the risks and make better and informed decisions.

WITH REPORT FROM KAITHREEN CRUZ