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Private sector initiative on booster shots

/ 04:01 AM December 07, 2021

The government has turned down the request of 26 business groups to allow them to use the vaccines they earlier purchased as booster shots for their employees and their families.

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the government’s point person in the management of the COVID-19 menace in the country, cited the government’s “moral and mandatory” obligation to prioritize the vaccination of Filipinos who have yet to receive their first dose as justification for that action.

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He said the groups’ proposal would be on hold until the 70 million Filipinos who have not yet been jabbed get their first dose.

So, between now and that uncertain date, the companies that used their own resources to procure vaccines for their employees can only keep their fingers crossed that their staff would also be immune from the recently detected Omicron variant.

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In effect, those employees are being held hostage by the ability of the government to secure more vaccines and the efficiency of the local governments to administer them to their constituents.

Judging from past experience, those two elements may take some time to come to fruition.

It is unfortunate that some companies have become victims of their success in acquiring vaccines for their employees at their initiative and expense. In well-ordered societies, the task of safeguarding the health of the people primarily lies on the government.

Not here.

Aside from partly taking on that responsibility, those companies were even obliged to donate a portion of their importation to the government as a condition for being allowed to bring them to the country.

Thus, until Galvez’s hold order is lifted or 70 million Filipinos get their first vaccine dose, whichever comes first, that vaccine stockpile would have to stay in the freezer and risk reaching their expiration date.

With the clock ticking, it is not that far-fetched that Galvez may, to avoid the vaccine from losing their efficacy, “suggest” to the companies to “lend” or donate (again!) some of it to the government so it can quickly meet its inoculation target.

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To think that Congress allocated billions of pesos and the government borrowed millions of dollars from international lending institutions to purchase vaccines and other paraphernalia to meet the challenge of the pandemic, and there is still no assurance the level of immunity needed to stem the spread of the virus can be reached before the end of the year.

What’s more, reports of billions of pesos-worth of suspicious transactions with Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp. do not inspire confidence in the ability of the government to effectively manage the medical crisis.

Galvez cannot be faulted for invoking the government’s moral obligation to unvaccinated Filipinos as justification for turning down the business groups’ proposal. That excuse was convenient and it is difficult to argue against it.

But he overlooked the fact that employers have a moral obligation, too, to make sure their employees are sufficiently protected to the extent medically possible from the virus.

Considering that the World Health Organization has recommended the administration of booster shots to people who have already received the prescribed vaccine doses, it is incumbent on the employers to heed that advice to keep their staff fit and healthy.

It would be immoral, and perhaps criminal, if employers who have the means and are willing to give the booster shots sit back and take the chance that the earlier vaccinations would immunize their employees for good from original and future variants of the virus causing COVID-19.

Bear in mind also that when those employees catch the virus, it is their employer, not the government, that will shoulder the costs of their treatment. It therefore makes good business sense to give booster shots when they are available.

It has been said that war is too important to be left to the generals. The war against COVID-19 is too important to be left to the management of a retired general who has zero experience in grave medical issues. INQ

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TAGS: Business, private sector, vaccines
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