Pharmacies join govt’s efforts to expand COVID-19 booster vaccine drive

By CNN Philippines Staff

The government on Thursday launched expanded efforts to administer booster shots to fully vaccinated Filipinos with the help of the private sector.

A limited number of vaccine doses were allocated to five stores, including Mercury Drug, Southstar Drug, Watsons, Generika Drugstore, and The Generics Pharmacy, in Metro Manila for the first day of the “Resbakuna sa Botika” pilot program.

Mercury Drug in Malate, Manila set up a waiting tent outside the drugstore to ensure physical distancing as many pre-registered to receive additional protection against COVID-19 through the booster dose. It allocated a separate refrigerator inside the store to be used as cold storage of the temperature-sensitive vaccines.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who led the ceremonial event in Mercury Drug, explained why it took long for the Philippines to tap drugstores for the vaccination program when it has been launched in other countries much earlier.

“Ang supply ng bakuna natin ay nag-stabilize lamang noong Oktubre, hindi tulad ng mayayamang bansa noong unang parte ng 2021. Tayo ay nagantay kaya hindi natin agad mapalawig ang ating Resbakuna program. Kaya ngayon ay ating ine-expand ang ating vaccination centers para mas maraming tao ang mapagsilbihan,” he said.

[Translation: Our vaccine supply only stabilized in October, unlike the rich countries that had enough supply as early as the first part of 2021. We had to wait so we cannot expand our program, but we are doing it now to serve more people.]

The expanded vaccination program will also be rolled out in two private health clinics on Friday. It will soon branch out to more pharmacies and clinics in other regions.

At least half a million doses need to be administered daily in the country to achieve the target of giving boosters to 72 million Filipinos in 2022. Currently, only an average of 267,900 booster shots are administered in the country per day.

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