Time to get rid of pandemic mindset – Concepcion
Jose Maria ‘Joey’ Concepcion 3rd. File Photo
WITH consumers continuing to reel from the surging prices of fuel, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Maria “Joey” Concepcion 3rd on Monday said the public must break out of the mindset that the country cannot escape the grip of the coronavirus pandemic.
Underscoring the importance of keeping focus on health and the economy, Concepcion warned against the onset of stagflation — stagnation and inflation — amid fears over rising infection rates.
“What we should be looking at are Covid hospitalizations and not infection rates,” he said, stressing that the public must now adapt to living with the virus instead of fearing it.
Continuing to limit people’s movement will not help, and making the first booster shot for Covid-19 “mandatory or quasi-mandatory,” as Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd has suggested, could lead to people being required to present vaccination cards anew.
“I have been traveling abroad and, except for when you leave the country, no one checks for vaccination cards anymore at the shops, at the restaurants,” Concepcion said.
Infectious diseases expert Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvaña agreed with Concepcion.
“Barring the emergence of a truly awful new variant, the economic cost of continuing to treat Covid-19 as a pandemic despite its now-decreased risk for death is unsustainable,” Salvaña said.
“Hybrid immunity seems to work better at preventing reinfection than infection-naïve vaccinated individuals. However, deaths remain low in either case since vaccine protection against severe Covid-19 is retained. Mortality trends are dropping despite recent record numbers of Covid-19 cases,” he added.
Both Concepcion and Salvaña believe that hybrid immunity, together with the general acceptance of wearing face masks, add a layer of protection for the population, as shown by the low hospitalization rates despite slowing vaccinations.
“I think the discussion should now shift to pinning down a timeline to removing this state of emergency,” Concepcion said.
Lifting the state of public health emergency would remove the emergency use authorization of Covid vaccines, and prompt the pharmaceutical companies to apply for a certificate of product registration for their vaccines so they could be available at drug stores.
The Go Negosyo founder also has a different view regarding requiring the public to get booster doses.
While he still supports boosters, having earlier pushed for the redefinition of a fully vaccinated person as someone who has taken the primary doses and one booster shot, Concepcion said mandatory additional jabs “might be impractical at this point.”
“Booster vaccinations are so low that if you start requiring people to present vaccination cards that show they’ve been boostered, you will limit the number of people who can go out and enter establishments,” he said.
Vaccine Expert Panel member Dr. Rontgene Solante believes that people will not be interested in taking booster shots unless it is made mandatory and that “it will take another Delta-type of Covid to increase booster uptake.”
Solante suggested that the government now share the responsibility of vaccinations with the private sector and its citizens, eventually passing the vaccination costs to those who can afford them.
“We should allow the individual to decide for themselves if they want to get vaccinated. I think we have done enough and they know already the consequences of being unvaccinated,” he said.
Public support has also been growing for a return to a life before the pandemic. In a poll last week on Go Negosyo’s Facebook page, more than 16,000 users agreed to the lifting of the alert level system, while only a little over 1,000 opposed it.