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Vaccine nation

There is an ongoing National Vaccination Program (NVP), and given the size of our nation’s population, it is a massive program that needs nothing less than an all-of-nation response. Consider this: We need to inoculate 70.25 million Filipinos by year-end to achieve herd immunity, or administer 140.5 million doses as each person would require two shots. To achieve this, the program will have to do 20 million doses every month beginning in August. This means that we have just three months to achieve such a delivery rate. According to the online “Our World in Data’’ of the University of Oxford, the country has so far administered 1.56 million doses as of April 20, 2021, a mere 1.11 percent of the target. We have a long way to go.

The efficient rollout of vaccine administration in some local governments bodes well, though, for the NVP and its ambitious goals. We must salute the mayors of Makati, Marikina, Pasig, Quezon City, and San Juan, to name a few, that have set up very well-organized systems and vaccination sites. In social media and chat groups, pleasant surprise has been expressed by individuals, leaders, and influencers about their first vaccine dose experience. These cities in turn have also cited the critical role of partnership with the private sector.

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Early on, in continuing their joint COVID-19 response initiatives, the private sector kept gently reminding government that we need to move fast on vaccine procurement, otherwise we may have to settle for being among the last in line. Presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion and the private sector-led COVID-19 response initiative T3 were the lead advocates for early vaccine procurement.

Since then, four major tripartite agreements between and among government, the private sector, and pharmaceutical companies for vaccine procurement and delivery have come to fruition (or are very close) for various vaccines. Global rules on the distribution of vaccines with emergency use authorization do not allow pharmaceutical companies to sell commercially, hence the need for tripartite agreements. These agreements allow the private sector to participate meaningfully and significantly in the vaccine program which the government task force has welcomed.

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To make these private sector contributions possible, various groups and corporations have had to come together, including Go Negosyo, the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation, BDO Foundation, ICTSI Foundation, Zuellig, Unilab, AC Health of the Ayala Group, and Metro Pacific Hospitals, just to name a few key stakeholders. However, every company, regardless of size, that signed up to be part of the various vaccine consortia—numbering at least 3,000 in my very rough estimate and potentially delivering millions of doses—are all just as important.

They have offered to help vaccinate all their employees and their dependents, as well as support the needs of indigent sectors across the country. Brought together, this will perhaps become the single biggest joint nationwide CSR program of the private sector ever, working alongside the national government and local governments. Mind you, this is not just about procuring the doses, but also includes countrywide logistics; master listing and assigning individuals to respective sites; administering the doses; and monitoring every individual for adverse reactions and to help determine the extent of protection of each individual over time. This is why corporations and conglomerates that can tap into their robust systems or build the needed infrastructure are indeed a crucial element in this effort.

As more and more business owners, leaders, and representatives joined the initiatives, including all the meetings and negotiations, as well as the opportunities to work with local governments, what became extremely clear is that the success of the NVP is hinged on building and expanding public-private partnerships that the national government should aggressively promote and fully support, especially on the local government level. The national government should focus on securing an adequate and timely supply of vaccines and remove all actual and possible barriers that may impede local government and private sector initiatives. Like the community pantries, these efforts to build a “vaccine nation” will probably best benefit from less national government control.

Peter Angelo V. Perfecto is public affairs director of the Phinma group and former executive director of Makati Business Club.

Business Matters is a project of the Makati Business Club ([email protected]).

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TAGS: COVID-19, Perfecto, vaccine, Vaccine nation
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