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Philippines to partner with pharmacies, private clinics for COVID booster jabs

By Brooke Villanueva Published Jan 18, 2022 4:02 pm

The government will tap pharmacies and private clinics as additional vaccination sites for booster jabs, amid an ongoing surge in the country's infection rates.

The pilot program will start in seven pharmacies in Metro Manila on Jan. 21, and may expand after to other areas.

“This is our way forward—to hand over the responsibility of the vaccination from the national government-centered to its complete devolution to the LGUs and the private sector in preparation for the future commercialization of the vaccine,” said vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. in a taped meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte and other officials that aired on Jan. 18. 

The facilities tapped for the pilot launch of "Resbakuna sa mga Botika" are Healthway (Manila), Mercury Drug (Manila-Malate-Quirino), South Star Drug (Marikina), Watsons (SM Supercenter, Pasig), Generika (Signal 1, Taguig), The Generics Pharmacy (Parañaque), and QualiMed (McKinley).

Filipinos aged at least 18 years old from priority groups A1 (workers in frontline health services), A2 (all senior citizens), A3 (persons with comorbidities), A4 (frontline personnel in essential sectors, including uniformed personnel), A5 (indigent population), and the rest of the adult population may register to get their booster shots in one of the designated venues. 

In a Jan. 18 press briefing, acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said about 50 to 100 booster doses will be administered per day for every pharmacy during its pilot period starting on Jan. 21 to manage the flow of the program and review the grounds for its expansion.

“Kung successful, we’ll just keep going on and on, increasing the pilot sites and then increasing the doses allocated kung needed. Hopefully, with the success of the pilot implementation, we can expand it also to outside NCR,” he said. 

Testing czar Vince Dizon said the program was patterned after a similar effort in the United States.

“Instead of just being focused on the big vaccination sites of the LGUs, the provinces, and the DOH regional offices, we will have smaller but more widely spread vaccination sites in the form of our botikas,” said Dizon. 

As of Jan. 17, the Department of Health has recorded a total of 3,242,374 coronavirus infections in the PH—with 290,938 active cases and 52,929 deaths. Some 2,898,507 people have recovered from the disease. 

The health agency’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard shows it has administered 119,746,232 vaccine doses as of the same date. Over five million, meanwhile, have received their booster shots.