(File photo)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday enjoined the public to “take advantage” of the country’s sufficient supply of vaccines against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) and get their booster shots to control the spread of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant.

“Take advantage now of the situation where we have us available, not I said in excess. Barely enough but we can start with the boosters because it would make your immune system – or the antibodies may be generated stronger because over time, it would really overwhelm the virus,” Duterte said in his Talk to the People.

He maintained that his insistence to push for the vaccination of Filipinos was a “good move” despite criticisms from some sectors.

“Sa totoo lang (To be honest), despite of the opposition posed by some sectors in our society, it was really a good move to insist on vaccination. At hindi tayo nakinig diyan sa sabi na (And we didn’t listen to those who said), ‘You have your freedom to refuse,’” he added.

Duterte said those who continued to refuse inoculation could simply stay indoors because leaving their homes would put others’ health at risk.

“Now if you do not want to be vaccinated, we can always courteously ask you to go. Do not go out of the house so that you will not be putting in jeopardy the rest of your neighborhood, the rest of your neighbors, and everybody. If you are going to an office, ayaw mo, tapos you (and you don’t want to be inoculated, you might) contaminate the whole of the office,” he added.

He noted that the government could use its police power to compel citizens to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

“The mandatory actually of vaccination can be insisted upon by the state on its people on the ground using – they are not the police – the police power of the state. Meaning to say to compel you whether you like it or not because your refusal or your continued refusal would really be a danger element there,” he said.

Currently, Covid-19 vaccination remains voluntary until a law is passed making it mandatory.

Massive inoculation of booster shots

In the same Talk to the People, National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. cited the importance of "massively" administering booster doses as the Omicron variant officially entered the country.

"The only thing that we can save up is iyong mag-boostering po tayo ng massively, particularly po iyong mga (we should massively administer booster shots, particularly to those) three months and above," he said.

Galvez said the NTF recommends massive booster vaccination within the National Capital Region (NCR).

"Yung mga centers na nabakunahan ng mga una ng March, April, May, June, July, kailangan na po na magpa-booster na po sila (Those who were initially vaccinated in March, April, May, June, and July, they have to get booster doses)," Galvez said, noting there could be a “breakthrough” or a possible surge in Covid-19 cases due to new variants.

"Kailangan po three months or four months na ano po sila is magpa-booster na para at least ma-minimize po natin 'yung tinatawag nating breakthrough (They have to get booster shots to at least minimize the so-called breakthrough)."

Galvez cited that most countries are now scaling up their booster vaccination.

"We should not break the chain of protection. We should already have the boosters," he added.

The government wants to ramp up the provision of primary doses to the remaining 40 million unvaccinated Filipinos.

"We have all the vaccines that we need," Galvez said.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier announced that the shorter administration interval between primary doses and booster shots, which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), would take effect on December 22.

The new policy states that booster doses may already be given to adults at least three months after receiving their second dose, and at least two months after the primary single-dose vaccine is given.

As of Wednesday, 45,284,617 Filipinos have been fully vaccinated while 1,194,321 more have received their booster shots.

AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer, Sinovac, and Sputnik are two-dose vaccines while Janssen is the sole single-dose vaccine currently approved for use in the country. (PNA)