PRIVATE companies are facing a wastage of P1.3 billion worth of vaccines against coronavirus that are expiring by the end of the month, according to a business leader.
The private sector has appealed to the government to allow them to use the expiring vaccines as second COVID-19 booster shots for their workers.
The possible losses worth more than P1.3 billion were only incurred by the private sector and “do not yet reflect the vaccines donated to the government,” said Jose Maria A. Concepcion III, a member of the President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. Private Sector Advisory Council.
As of writing, there were 623,680 AstraZeneca vaccines and 864,700 Moderna vaccines in private sector warehouses, Mr. Concepcion said.
“Each AstraZeneca jab is estimated to cost at least US$5 each, while Moderna shots were bought for US$26.83 for each dose,” he said.
The vaccines were purchased by the private sector through a tripartite agreement with manufacturers and the government as the country struggled to procure vaccines amid the pandemic.
Under the agreement, half of the vaccines acquired by businesses were shared with the government.
“We have to learn from this. I think what really contributed was the lack of clear rules on the vaccines: who is allowed to take the vaccines, and the ability of some bodies to move swiftly with science and the reality on the ground,” said Mr. Concepcion, who advised the previous administration on entrepreneurial concerns.
Mr. Concepcion is among those appealing to the government to allow workers as young as 50 years to receive a second booster shot.
“The lack of urgency with some bodies is still affecting the whole vaccine rollout. This shouldn’t be the case as we move forward,” he said.
“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.”
Mr. Concepcion said the return of in-person classes and the vulnerability of the workforce should also be considered by the government in vaccine deployment. “Pandemic response should not be business-as-usual.”
The private sector has been asking the government to lower the minimum age requirement for a second booster shot to 50 years instead of 60.
Currently, only seniors and health workers may get a second top-up shot.
Mr. Concepcion has been lobbying for reforms in the Health department’s Health Technology Assessment Council, which he said has failed to accelerate the government’s booster program.
He earlier cited a slight delay in the administration of the first booster shot, which was first rolled out in the country in November.
More than 71.4 million people had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as of July 19. More than 1.1 million people have received their second booster shot
Experts earlier warned that waning immunity against the coronavirus among Filipinos and increased movement could trigger “small waves” of infections.
Meanwhile, vaccination rate against coronavirus in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in southern Philippines remained the lowest in the country at 39.73%, according to data from the Ministry of Health as of July 16.
Fully vaccinated individuals, or those who have received two doses or one of a single-dose brand, were more than 1.38 million out of the 3.48 million eligible population.
Those with booster shots were only 138,832 individuals.
The Philippine government has set a target nationwide coverage of at least 70%.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, currently the department’s officer-in-charge secretary, was in the region on Thursday to assure the BARMM government of continued support on health issues.
“Let me express my gratitude to the Department of Health delegation. We are quite aware that in BARMM, the challenge is still very much high as far as vaccination is concerned,” Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim said in a statement.
Ms. Vergeire said the current administration is soon launching a campaign for higher coronavirus vaccination targets.
She said under the “Pinaslakas” program, the national government aims to innoculate 90% of senior citizens nationwide with primary series and at least 50% of the eligible population.
In May, the BARMM Ministry of Health set up 71 additional sites for a targeted vaccination campaign to ramp up coverage.
Health Officer-in-Charge Minister Zulqarneyn M. Abas had said that the region’s low coverage rate is mainly due to hesitancy. “Our top enemy in the low vaccination roll out in our region is the high vaccination hesitancy of the public,” he said.
Health ministry Director General Amirel S. Usman also said then that while the region had been recording low coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases and was at “relatively low risk,” a higher vaccination rate would help mitigate potential future outbreaks.
Active COVID-19 cases in the BARMM as of July 20 remained low at 12 out of the 19,847 recorded since the start of the pandemic. Of the total, 19,142 recovered while 693 died.
Basilan province had the highest number of active cases at 7, while Maguindanao province and Cotabato City had two each, and Lanao del Sur had one. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Marifi S. Jara