Vaccine-induced business pickup
While fellow Asean countries Indonesia, Laos and Singapore have commenced the inoculation of their citizens with the COVID-19 vaccine, and Malaysia and Thailand are on track to do the same this month, the Philippines is still unsure about the delivery date of the vaccines it ordered from various pharmaceutical companies.
Carlito Galvez Jr., the government’s point person on the national vaccination program, apologized for the delay in the procurement and cited lack of control of the supply chain for that.
Earlier, he said the delivery of the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer had been stalled because of the latter’s demand for the enactment of a law that would indemnify the vaccine’s recipients in case they suffer from serious side effects.
That proposed law is pending in Congress and President Duterte has certified it as urgent. Hopefully, when that law is passed, no other kinks will arise that may further delay the delivery of the vaccines.
According to reports, China’s donation of its homegrown vaccine would be delivered as soon as it gets clearance for its use from the Food and Drug Administration.
In other words, the Philippines is on a wait-and-see mode for the vaccines that are expected to minimize, if not eliminate, the spread of the virus that has caused misery to millions of people all over the world.
Those vaccines don’t come cheap so the government is tapping the Asian Development Bank and other international lending institutions for the funds needed to achieve 70-percent “herd immunity,” or inoculate at least 77 million Filipinos.
How it plans to reach that level, whether by itself or in coordination with the private sector and local government unit, has not yet been announced.
The delay in the delivery of the vaccines has added to the prevailing mood of pessimism in the country.
The economy is in a recession and the government’s economic managers earlier expressed apprehension that the adverse effects of that economic condition would linger until the middle of this year.
With thousands of businesses shuttered due to the pandemic, more than 7.3 million Filipinos have, so far, been rendered jobless. That number does not include the thousands of overseas Filipino workers who were forced to come home due to COVID-19-related causes.
The laws enacted to pump-prime the economy do not seem to have accomplished their objective. To the government’s credit, its infrastructure projects (or what’s left of its “Build, Build, Build” program) have provided some economic relief.
The delivery of the vaccines and the inoculation of those who need them would be a morale booster for a public that is unsure of what the future holds as the country continues to grapple with the virus.
Next month, it would be a year since the government imposed various levels of quarantine in different parts of the country.
Knowing that vaccines capable of minimizing infection are available would give Filipinos confidence to gradually return to their prepandemic way of life, or do business while observing the protocols on preventing the spread of the virus.
If the government is perceived as engaged in honest-to-goodness efforts to reach the level of herd immunity, people with financial means would be encouraged to spend, or put more money in circulation, and, in the process, help get the country out of the recession.
And when business people or entrepreneurs see that their goods or services have potential markets or are optimistic about renewed consumer activity, they would have the incentive to renew operations or expand business and hire additional staff to meet the increase in consumer demand.
This is not to say the vaccine would be the silver bullet for the economic problems the country is going through at present.
It would only be one of many measures that the government has to undertake if it wants to ease the sufferings that COVID-19 has brought on the people.
In the meantime, let’s keep our fingers crossed that South Sudan and other poverty-stricken African countries do not get ahead of the Philippines in getting the vaccine. That would really take the cake. INQ
For comments, please send your email to “[email protected]”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.