‘Vaccine bubbles’ unfair, costly – business groups

THE private sector is split on “vaccine bubbles” as some business groups on Monday described as discriminatory the proposed measures to allow greater mobility for the vaccinated.

In a statement, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) and the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (Philexport) said the proposed measures would discriminate against those who cannot be vaccinated due to medical and “practical” reasons. 

The business groups also expressed concerns about the costs of identifying vaccinated customers. 

“Discriminating against the unvaccinated is not only unfair, illogical and hard to implement, but also expensive for our entrepreneurs who may even have to hire a person just to check the vaccination cards and manage another queue just for this group,” ECOP and Philexport President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr. said.

“The same will happen in transport hubs if we distinguish among passengers.”

The government has been putting strict lockdowns in place, especially in Metro Manila, as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases surge amid the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant. The Philippines recorded its highest single-day tally of 26,303 cases on Saturday.

Other business groups like the Management Association of the Philippines had supported more mobility for the fully vaccinated population to complement granular or localized lockdowns.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Ma. “Joey” A. Concepcion III has been advocating for the use of these vaccine bubbles, or areas where the vaccinated can move freely, gaining the support of various industry groups representing retailers, gyms, and salons.

In contrast, the PCCI has been pushing for full economic reopening whether or not the country reaches herd immunity against COVID-19.

“Many of the vaccinated people are senior citizens and those with co-morbidities, while the unvaccinated youth, the bulk of consumers, may not even be allowed to go out,” PCCI Acting President Edgardo G. Lacson said.

A study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases in November found that region-wide mitigation strategies such as stay-at-home orders were linked to lower COVID-19 transmission rates.

Under 15% of the Philippine population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker showed. — Jenina P. Ibañez