MANILA— Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion on Saturday defended the country's proposed COVID-19 "vaccine bubble" to the World Health Organization (WHO), noting that its intent in the long run is beneficial.
WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe had warned about the proposal, saying the bubble would "burst" eventually due to infections even with people fully vaccinated.
But Concepcion said the bubble aimed to have more people immunized from the respiratory disease in the long run while also trying to revive the pandemic-hit economy.
"I think hindi niya maintindihan 'yung ibig sabihin ng bakuna bubble kasi sa component ng bakuna bubble dalawa 'yan eh: ang family bubble and 'yung business bubble," Concepcion explained in a public briefing.
(He does not understand what the vaccine bubble means. It has two components: The family bubble and the business bubble.)
"Dito sa private sector halos umaabot sa 90 to 100 percent fully vaccinated na ang mga empleyado natin sa private sector natin dahil sa business bubble," he added.
(Vaccination in the private sector already reached 90 to 100 percent due to the business bubble.)
A vaccine bubble would urge firms and establishments to separate transportation, dining, and other outdoor systems for fully inoculated individuals.
Under the new Alert Level system, restaurants and other establishments are already limiting their indoor capacity for only those fully vaccinated.
The official, meanwhile, also clarified they did not discount the fact that breakthrough infections might happen inside the bubble. It is also being addressed and being monitored during the new alert level implementation.
"'Yun ang ibig sabihin. Hindi namin sinasabi na hindi puwede mahawa, 'yun ang misunderstanding ng WHO. At 'yung goal ng family bubble at business bubble is 'yung mismong padre de pamilya, either the father or the mother, will make sure that everybody is vaccinated," he explained.
(That's what we mean, we did not say that infections will no longer be possible. The goal of the family and business bubbles is to urge the father figure of the family to make sure that everybody is vaccinated)
"The most important thing there is, it (vaccine) is preventing people from being hospitalized, those vaccinated."
Last week, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said the proposed vaccine bubble "will happen."
In late August, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said imposing the “bakuna bubble” may face legal challenges due to possible discrimination.
The DOJ has also cited the equal protection clause and still limited supply of COVID-19 shots as reasons on why vaccine bubbles should not yet be implemented in the Philippines
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire also downplayed the proposal due to the presence of the more virulent Delta variant, the community transmission of which is already happening in the country.
The bakuna bubble is being pushed while the country faces some challenges in its COVID-19 vaccine rollout due to limited supply and late deliveries.
Philippine authorities are still implementing an immunization scheme prioritizing the elderly, health workers, economic frontliners, and the poor.
As of Thursday, nearly 18 million people have been fully vaccinated against the disease, while 22.5 million individuals are partially immunized, based from government data collated by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group.