Low booster rate seen endangering recovery as immunity wanes


THE slow rollout of booster shots is putting the economic recovery at risk, particularly for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), with the threat expected to be elevated when the protection provided by the first two vaccine doses starts to recede later this year, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Ma. A. Concepcion III said at a Laging Handa briefing on Wednesday.

He said the prospect of further lockdowns, should coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases surge again, would wipe out whatever momentum recovering MSMEs have built up.

“Our immunity will be waning in the coming months, especially in the second semester. It might affect businesses especially MSMEs that are recovering,” Mr. Concepcion said.

Mr. Concepcion said 74.1% of the target population has been fully vaccinated, with boosters administered to 13.7%.

“The gains… will be wasted, especially with our MSMEs. It is difficult to recover again if we are placed under Alert Level 3 or 4,” he said, referring to quarantine settings that contain comprehensive restrictions on mobility. “We will lose the momentum of this economic recovery.”

Mr. Concepcion said in a statement on Wednesday that boosters are the key to ensuring that a World Health Organization (WHO) forecast of 300,000 active COVID-19 cases by May does not come to pass.

“There are around 27 million vaccines expiring in July and 53 million more in storage. That’s more than enough for our needs,” Mr. Concepcion said.

He said the Philippines is still short of its target of 90 million people receiving two doses, with 67 million having received the two shots that the government sees as the norm for full vaccination. He estimated the population that has not received a booster dose at over 53 million, including senior citizens and youth aged 12 to 17.  

“While we have almost 80 million vaccines, we should get our booster shots. Let’s maintain the wall of immunity, and not waste the vaccines. Let’s protect ourselves and allow the economy to grow and help our citizens,” Mr. Concepcion said.  

“Cases are moving up. This may be due to waning immunity as the booster uptake remains very poor. We’re trying to prevent people from getting severely ill and overwhelming the healthcare system. We want to maintain the Alert Level 1 status, but we need people to stay healthy and keep the engines of the economy running,” he added. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave