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Business leaders want mandatory vaccination for employees

A business establishment shows off a “100% vaccinated” sticker from the San Juan City local government. The sticker is given after an establishment’s employees have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus disease 2019. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

By Jenina P. Ibañez, Reporter

BUSINESS LEADERS are asking the government to allow the private sector to require employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus before going back to work.

“The business sector has been wanting to mandate the vaccination (for) all employees,” Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Acting President Edgardo G. Lacson said at the BusinessWorld Insights online forum on Wednesday.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) has issued a circular against “no vaccine, no work” policies, calling the practice discriminatory.

“I think that is important for DoLE to recognize that we have that authority — that is a management prerogative,” Mr. Lacson said. “We want to protect not only other people; we want to protect people from themselves.”

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Ma. “Joey” Concepcion III said that most companies are able to persuade their employees to avail of the vaccines.

“The private sector has its own ways of persuading their employees. (There is) inconvenience, especially if you pinpoint that there will be less mobility eventually for the unvaccinated,” he said, noting that he has spoken to DoLE about this issue.

“I think it’s required — if you really want to achieve herd immunity… everybody has to be vaccinated,” he added.

Mr. Concepcion has been advocating for the creation of “bubbles” for fully vaccinated people, or areas where they can move freely.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez wants the government to relax restrictions during lockdowns for people who have been vaccinated as soon as the vaccination rate improves. Unvaccinated people would have to stay home to be protected against the virus, he said.

The Philippines’ access to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines remains limited. Only 11.63% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data.

Anna Lisa T. Ong-Lim, a member of the Department of Health Technical Advisory Group, said that all minimum public health standards should be implemented efficiently.

“I think one other thing we need to keep in mind is ventilation which is something that may have been left by the wayside and it’s something that we can actually improve. We want to be able to intervene using system controls rather than behavioral interventions.”

She said that “bubbles” could help reduce contact with people who may be infected.

“But we know that it’s not totally protective. And so we continue to advise people that maybe one mindset that we can keep in mind or keep aware of is to consider that every person that they meet is possibly infected. And if that’s the case, then they will continue to be vigilant when they face different people,” Ms. Ong-Lim said. 

Mr. Concepcion also said that he is in talks with the Department of Transportation to roll out inoculation for transport workers in Metro Manila.

“The timeline for this to happen is hopefully by somewhere in September, October,” he said.

“It’s very important to support the transport group because we want to make sure that people who move from bubble to bubble have that bridge.”

As of Wednesday, the Health department reported 11,085 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total active cases to 105,151.