THE private and public sectors will continue to ensure there will be no more pandemic-related lockdowns, Go Negosyo founder Jose Ma. "Joey" Concepcion 3rd said on Sunday.
"Let's correct the gaps and move forward," Concepcion said in a statement.
He said the biggest gap involves the leadership of the Department of Health which needs "one person to make the call" and who would "have visibility on the inventory of vaccines so that the flow of supply and demand can be efficiently regulated."
Concepcion believes that a lot of the confusion over the government's Covid response happened because consensus-building took precedence over urgency.
"Having multiple committees contribute to the effort and trying to get consensus among experts is fine, but in a state of public health emergency, one person must make the call. The Covid pandemic was not business as usual. Time was not on our side," he said.
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The losses from the private sector's share of the recently expired Covid-19 vaccines would have been minimized if the guidelines had been released earlier, particularly after the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave its approval.
The Health Technology Assessment Council "decided to allow second boosters for 50 and above two days before most of our supply expired. If we were only given enough time, we could have done more," said Concepcion.
Such informed decisiveness would have contributed to raising vaccination rates, especially at a time when people were driven to get vaccinated by the fear of getting infected.
"The demand for vaccinations was high with the Alpha, Beta and Delta variants, and it started to slow down with Omicron. When people saw that the risk was going down, they became complacent," he said.
"On hindsight, we needed simple parameters on who gets to be vaccinated and when. We should have made it easy for people to get the vaccines, and deployed it as fast as we could, getting rid of the obstructionist policies that just confused people, created barriers, and slowed down the rollout," Concepcion said.
"Other countries have already done the work for us; we should use these advantages for our people's benefit. I would think that for US-made vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer, the most efficient path — without compromising scientific integrity — would be to follow CDC guidelines," he said.
He gave assurances that the private sector remains supportive of the government's pandemic response efforts which includes promoting boosters.
"We spent a lot of our own money, and though it was not our job to vaccinate all the economic frontliners in the country, we did what we could to vaccinate even those who were not part of the hundreds of companies who paid for these vaccines," Concepcion noted, referring to the private sector initiative for a tripartite agreement that enabled the Philippines to have its own supply of Covid vaccines despite regulatory roadblocks."We donated as many as we could to LGUs (local government units) and did everything we can to encourage all the employees and families of the companies that were part of our vaccine procurement initiative to go and get vaccinated and boostered," he said.
He stressed that the private sector was able to achieve within its ranks a high vaccination rate for the primary and first booster doses.
"This is the reason we were pressing for the country to follow the CDC guidelines for the second boosters, specifically to allow 50 years and above and those 18 to 49 years old with comorbidities to be allowed to guard against waning immunity," he said.
He recalled that repeated requests were made as evidence mounted of waning vaccine immunity and the emergence of subvariants, and as the vaccines neared their expiry dates.
"In the end, our country did relatively well because the private sector committed to the effort of helping the government. We are grateful because of President Marcos' 'no more lockdown' directive but moving forward, we can do much better if we address the gaps and continue vaccinating to the max," Concepcion said.