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‘Big brother’ vaccination scheme

With President Duterte’s order to vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. to immediately approve the private sector’s importation of COVID-19 vaccines, employees of private businesses can heave a sigh of relief.

Until that directive was issued, private companies that have placed orders for the vaccine from their manufacturers expressed silent apprehension that their orders could get caught in the bureaucracy.

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Note that the Department of Health requires those companies to enter into a tripartite agreement with it and the pharmaceutical companies before the vaccines can be allowed into the country.

By giving private businesses a free hand in the procurement of vaccines for their staff, the vaccine the government would have otherwise allocated for them can be given to others.

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Considering the cost, the government’s savings from that private initiative are not something to sneeze at, not to mention the benefit of a speedy rollout of the vaccines to their beneficiaries.

Employees of companies who opted to use their internal funds, and not wait for a subsidy or dole out from the government, to purchase the vaccines should thank their lucky stars.

Not only are they still gainfully employed, but their employers have taken the proper steps to immunize them from COVID-19 and keep them safe and healthy without deducting the cost of that measure from their salaries.

In contrast, as of January, some 4 million (and counting) Filipinos are unemployed and have to rely on the government for cost-free vaccination.

That privilege of employer-­sponsored vaccination, however, may not be enjoyed by employees of micro, small and medium-sized companies that have managed to resume operations despite the odds.

The priority for these businesses is to make the most of whatever capital is still available, minimize operational costs and try to bring the vo­lume of business to prepandemic levels as soon as possible.

Given the present market conditions and limited financial resources, buying the vaccine is not a viable option. That opportunity would have to wait until the business can afford to pay for it.

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The employees of these businesses can only look with envy at their counterparts in businesses that have the means to procure the vaccine. It’s sad, but that’s how the cookie crumbles in a free enterprise environment.

Outside of the minimum employment benefits required by law, employees cannot compel their employers to give them more if the latter are not in a financial position to do so. As the saying goes, we cannot extract blood from turnip.

This is where Big Business, or the country’s Top 100 companies, can come in to, in a manner of speaking, mitigate the imbalance in the provisioning of vaccines to the country’s labor force.

Those companies can put under their wings employees of less financially endowed businesses and pay for their vaccine jabs.

No doubt, that effort would entail additional expenses, but the benefactor-company can look at it as part of its corporate social responsibility, something the country sorely needs at these times.

For example, a business conglomerate that does business with service contractors or product suppliers can “adopt” the latter’s employees for purposes of vaccination.

That effort would accomplish two things: first, it would help ensure those contractors and suppliers are in good health and therefore able to meet their contractual obligations; and, second, it would earn for the company the beneficiaries’ gratitude that would reap positive results in their business relationship.

To encourage that philanthropic act, the Bureau of Internal Revenue can perhaps amend Revenue Regulation No. 9-2020, to make its costs fully deductible from the donor corporation’s gross income.

For now, only cash donations for COVID-19-­related purposes that are needed for, among others, health-care equipment and supplies, relief goods and shuttle services are entitled to that privilege. INQFor comments, please send your email to [email protected]

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TAGS: Business, COVID-19 vaccines
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