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Concepcion raises alarm over low booster uptake, urges redefinition of 'fully vaccinated'

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion on Thursday raised concern about the low booster uptake in the country as he proposed to redefine what a fully vaccinated person is.

“As of mid-March, our total fully vaccinated individuals is 73%, but those who have received their booster shots is only 13%,” Concepcion said in a statement, citing data from the National Vaccination Operations Center.

He said that even in the highly vaccinated National Capital Region, boosted individuals account for only 30% of the eligible population.

In provinces with fully vaccinated rates of 75% or higher, such as those in the Cordillera Administrative Region and Regions 1, 2 and 3, booster vaccinations are only between 11% and 16%.

“These are not encouraging numbers,” Concepcion said.

The presidential adviser suggested that the term "fully vaccinated" be redefined as those who have received a booster dose.

Concepcion also proposed putting an expiry date on the validity of vaccination cards, which would then be replaced by booster cards once they expire.

He said that in Singapore, the validity of a person’s fully vaccinated status is set at 270 days after the last dose of the primary vaccination series and will be extended after receipt of a booster shot. 

“While we are still okay right now, we cannot be sure about the second half of the year, when antibodies will wane for most everyone,” Concepcion said.

“Vaccines now in stock in the country are also set to expire by June. Beyond that point, where will get vaccines to address the waning immunity? The vaccines are available here, right now, and we are encouraging the public to take them while they still can,” he added.

Intensifying the booster vaccination drive is important so as not to "slow the reopening of the economy" and avert a "possible increase in cases," he said. 

“I cannot stress enough the urgency of bringing back the vibrancy of our economy, and this depends on the integrity of our wall of immunity, and our wall of immunity is only as strong as the effectiveness of our vaccinations,” Concepcion said.

He expressed hope that widespread booster vaccinations would lead to the eventual lifting of the state of public health emergency in the country. 

“While Alert Level 1 has helped us move to a much better place, we should start to aspire to a downgraded alert level. We can only do this if we maintain our wall of immunity, and to do that people must take their boosters,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte extended the state of calamity in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic until September 12, 2022. — VBL, GMA News