MANILA – The Philippine government has rolled out its booster vaccination for the healthcare workers (HCWs) on Wednesday, with a target to cover the country's more than one million medical front-liners before the year ends.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr., and other health officials led the ceremonial inoculation at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), where some 250 HCWs are expected to get their boosters within the day.

Imelda Teves of NKTI's radiology department was elated after getting the shot, saying she had been waiting to get this additional jab since her last dose was administered in April 2021.

Imelda Teves of NKTI's radiology department received her booster shot on Wednesday (Nov. 17, 2021). (PNA photo by Robert Oswald Alfiler)

"There was no hesitancy at all, hindi ako natakot. Actually nag-volunteer agad kami, sa amin masaya kami kasi at least mapapanatag kami na may booster na kami (I was not scared at all. Actually, we volunteered as soon as it was announced, for us we are happy because we now have an added protection)," she told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) right after receiving the jab.

"Very helpful ito kasi kami mismo nakikita namin ang situwasyon ng mga pasyente na ayaw magpa-vaccine. So huwag mag-alala dahil napag-aralan naman ito (This is very helpful because we ourself see the situation of patients who do not want to get vaccinated. So for others, don't worry because this underwent thorough study)," she added.

Teves' first and second vaccine shots were Sinovac's CoronaVac while her booster is Pfizer-BioNTech.

She felt no side effects at all during her primary doses and as of the moment, none from her booster shot.

"Akala ko nga masakit pero hindi naman. Sa ngayon wala naman akong na-feel na side effect, katulad ng Sinovac noon wala naman akong naramdaman na kahit ano (At first I though it would hurt but it didn't. At present I don't feel any side effect, just like when I got Sinovac back then)," she said.

The administration of third shots for the A1 priority group (workers in frontline health services) was announced last Monday and officially started on November 17, with the simultaneous booster vaccination in different areas.

Duque said this would be continuous and simultaneous with the ramping up of first and second-dose vaccination for children and the general population.

READ: Healthcare workers can pick vax brand for booster dose: DOH

"This month of November we will try to cover the vast majority of our health care workers but we will (exert more effort) so that everyone will get it as soon as possible," he said in a presser.

Since the Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency use authorization (EUA), Duque said the public can rest assured that the country's booster dose policy is "safe and effective".

Based on the latest DOH guidelines, HCWs who have completed their primary series, six months after getting the second dose can be inoculated with the following brands regardless of which vaccines taken in the first two doses:

Primary vaccinationInterval for booster Homologous booster Heterologous booster
SinovacAt least 6 monthsSinovacAstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna
AstraZenecaAt least 6 monthsAstraZeneca*Pfizer, Moderna
PfizerAt least 6 monthsPfizerAstraZeneca, Moderna
ModernaAt least 6 monthsModernaAstraZeneca, Pfizer
Gamaleya SputnikAt least 6 monthsnot yet for implementation AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna
JanssenAt least 3 monthsnot yet for implementationAstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna

                                                                                                         *allowed but with precaution based on EUA

Duque said the FDA's initial advice was to be "mindful" when mixing and matching booster doses, especially if the primary jabs have a different platform from the third shot.

Nevertheless, he said this is still allowed since the objective remains the same -- to increase the recipient's level of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

Several of the NKTI HCWs who received their boosters on Wednesday had Sinovac as their primary jabs and Pfizer as their booster.

"Puwede naman iyon, wala namang problema (That's allowed, there's no problem with that) because at the end of the day the objective is the same, it's to bring up the level of antibody protection prior to the booster dose," Duque said. (PNA)