Bivalent COVID-19 vaccine will reassure investors, boost PH economy — Concepcion
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines must prepare for the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion as the Philippines tries to maintain economic activity amidst economic and political volatility around the world.
“Bivalent vaccines will help us we protect the vulnerable and those who are essential to keeping our economy going,” said Concepcion.
He reiterated that securing the vaccines early will be important if the country is to inspire confidence among investors that the country will not experience any more disruptions because of the virus.
Bivalent COVID-19 vaccines protect against both the original strain of the SARS-CoV2 virus and the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.
Previous vaccines also offer protection against the Omicron variants, but not as much as the bivalent vaccines.
“The bivalent vaccines have a broader antibody production compared to current vaccines available. With a broader antibody, longer duration of protection is its advantage over current vaccines,” said infectious diseases expert and Vaccine Expert Panel member Dr. Rontgene Solante.
He added that if the bivalent vaccines are made available, it might encourage people – especially those who have not received booster doses – to get their shots.
Concepcion said that the Philippines needs to prepare early to secure its supply of the vaccines.
“A lot of countries have already placed their orders, and here in the Philippines, there is no FDA approval yet for these vaccines,” he said.
He explained that pharmaceutical companies who have bivalent vaccines will likely choose to be indemnified by the government.
“This will need an Emergency Use Authorization, which is possible if the government extends the State of Public Health Emergency up to when the bivalent vaccines will be available to us,” he said.
In the US, bivalent vaccines are recommended for those who have not been boostered, or as a second booster dose to who are 18 to 50 years old with comorbidities, those 50 years and older, immunocompromised and healthcare workers.
Pro-active approach and dealing with “new normal”
Infectious diseases expert and OCTA Research fellow Benjamin Co believes that government must remain proactive in its vaccination efforts. “The economy will feel less of the pinch of the pandemic if the government provides,” he said.
“The government must be up to date and up to speed on what vaccines are available against the common vaccine-preventable diseases. It gives people a fighting chance to deal with the new normal,” Co said.
This is especially for the majority who cannot afford to access the vaccines.
“It’s like a war with the pandemic. People are left behind. And that should never happen,” he said.
Pre-registration and private sector boost
To this end, Concepcion thinks that the best approach would be to pre-register those who are willing to be vaccinated with the bivalent vaccines.
“Private sector can provide a list of employees who are willing to be vaccinated, and even handle the inoculations. LGUs can also do the same: provide a list of their residents who are willing to be vaccinated,” Concepcion said.
“This will safeguard against vaccine wastage because we can predict how many people are willing to get vaccinated with the bivalent vaccines,” he added.
Pre-registering vaccinees will also make it easier to handle inventory.
He further recommends confining the purchases to only two brands in order to avoid the confusion and logistical challenges that ensued when multiple brands were used for the country’s primary vaccinations against COVID-19
But unlike previous procurements of the COVID-19 vaccines, he believes the private sector may not be as willing to spend its own money for the vaccines this time around.
Back in 2020, the private sector bought COVID-19 vaccines directly, and shared half with the government.
This circumvented regulatory roadblocks that prevent government from buying non-FDA approved vaccines, and secured doses for the country at a time when COVID-19 vaccines were in short supply.
By July 2022, however, some Php5.1 billion worth of these vaccines expired without ever being administered.
Maintaining “wall of immunity”
COVID-19 vaccination will remain voluntary.
”We cannot mandate vaccinations, but we have to maintain the wall of immunity that we have built with our previous vaccination programs,” Concepcion pointed out.
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