COVID-19 vaccines

Philippines targets giving COVID-19 boosters in pharmacies by end January

Bea Cupin

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Philippines targets giving COVID-19 boosters in pharmacies by end January

General Trias City, Cavite residents queue for the COVID-19 booster shot at the Robinson's Place vaccination site on January 4, 2022.

Dennis Abrina/Rappler

The country's vaccine czar says it's the 'way forward' in devolving vaccinations to LGUs and the 'future commercialization of the vaccine'

MANILA, Philippines – The “way forward” for the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program? Rolling boosters out to the public via pharmacies and private clinics, vaccination chief Carlito Galvez Jr said during a regular meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, January 17.

Galvez said the government planned to begin vaccine booster rollout via pilot pharmacies in the National Capital Region (NCR) beginning January 21 (Galvez’s presentation, however, indicated that the rollout would begin on January 20).

Subsequent phases of the rollout plan – expansion to additional sites in NCR and then, eventually, to other regions – have no target date yet, based on Monday’s presentation.

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Only booster shots may be administered via the pharmacies and private clinics. Based on Galvez’s presentation, boosters will be rolled out via Mercury Drug, Watsons, The Generics Pharmacy, Generika Drug Store, Southstar Drug, QualiMed, and Healthway.

Individuals 18 years old and above from the following groups are eligible to get their boosters at pharmacies:

  • Priority Group A1: Workers in essential health services, if without comorbidities
  • Priority Group Expanded A1: Overseas Filipino Workers, and family members of A1, if without cormorbidities
  • Priority Group A4: Workers in essential services
  • Priority Group A5: Poor population
  • Rest of the adult population

“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 Galvez.

Although it will be finally rolled out here after nearly two years into the global pandemic, getting vaccinated in pharmacies and private clinics is not unique to the Philippines. Other countries have been administering COVID-19 jabs via pharmacies since vaccines became available over a year ago. Vince Dizon, the country’s tracing czar, had “initiated” the plan based on the USA’s vaccine rollout via pharmacies, according to Galvez.

The Philippines’ goal is to administer COVID-19 vaccine boosters to 72.16 million adult Filipinos. To hit this target, the government plans to “concentrate on boostering” at NCR+10 and other areas with at least 70% of the population vaccinated. NCR+10 refers to Metro Manila and previously identified priority areas – Bacolod, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Baguio, Zamboanga, Dumaguete, Tuguegarao, General Santos, Naga, and Legazpi.

Mega vaccination centers will also be dedicated “primarily” to boostering while primary series vaccination will be done through “barangay to barangay” and “house to house.”

Thus far, over 4.76 million Filipinos have gotten their booster shots for COVID-19, with average of 267,900 booster doses administered daily. The country needs to nearly double that – to at least half a million boosters daily – in order to hit its target of 72.16 million inoculated.

The government wants 90 million Filipinos vaccinated by the end of June 2022.

The country is currently dealing with a surge in COVID-19 cases, driven partly by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. On the day of the Cabinet meeting, the country tallied 37,070 new confirmed cases. Active cases in the country as of January 17 were at 290,938. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.