Bivalent Covid vaccines needed — Concepcion

The Philippines must prepare to secure bivalent Covid vaccines if it hopes to maintain economic activities amid economic and political volatility around the world, according to Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion.

“Bivalent vaccines will help us protect the vulnerable and those who are essential to keeping our economy going,” Concepcion said.

He reiterated that securing the vaccines early will be important if the country is to inspire confidence among investors that the country will not experience any more disruptions because of the virus.

Bivalent Covid-19 vaccines protect against both the original strain of the SARS-CoV2 virus and the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5.

Previous vaccines also offer protection against the Omicron variants, but not as much as the bivalent vaccines.

“The bivalent vaccines have a broader antibody production compared to current vaccines available. With a broader antibody, longer duration of protection is its advantage over current vaccines,” said infectious diseases expert and Vaccine Expert Panel member Dr. Rontgene Solante.

He added that if the bivalent vaccines are made available, it might encourage people – especially those who have not received booster doses – to get their shots.

Concepcion said a lot of countries have already placed their orders.

“Here in the Philippines, there is no Food Drug Administration approval yet for these vaccines,” he said.

Concepcion explained that pharmaceutical companies that have bivalent vaccines will likely choose to be indemnified by the government.

“This will need an Emergency Use Authorization, which is possible if the government extends the State of Public Health Emergency up to when the bivalent vaccines will be available to us,” he said.

In the United States, bivalent vaccines are recommended for those who have not been boosted, or as a second booster dose to those who are 18 to 50 years old with comorbidities, those 50 years and older, immunocompromised, and healthcare workers.

Infectious diseases expert Dr. Benjamin Co believes that government must remain proactive in its vaccination efforts.

“The economy will feel less of the pinch of the pandemic if the government provides,” he said.

“The government must be up to date and up to speed on what vaccines are available against the common vaccine-preventable diseases. It gives people a fighting chance to deal with the new normal,” Co said.

“It’s like a war with the pandemic. People are left behind. And that should never happen.”

To this end, Concepcion thinks that the best approach would be to pre-register those who are willing to be vaccinated with the bivalent vaccines.

“Private sector can provide a list of employees who are willing to be vaccinated, and even handle the inoculations. Local government units can also do the same: provide a list of their residents who are willing to be vaccinated,” he said.

“This will safeguard against vaccine wastage because we can predict how many people are willing to get vaccinated with the bivalent vaccines,” he said.

Pre-registering vaccines will also make it easier to handle inventory.

Concepcion recommends confining the purchases to only two brands to avoid the confusion and logistical challenges that ensued when multiple brands were used for the country’s primary vaccinations against Covid.

But unlike previous procurements of the Covid vaccines, he believes the private sector may not be as willing to spend its own money for the vaccines this time around.

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