BOOSTERS WITHIN REACH. A health worker administers an AstraZeneca Covid-19 booster shot to a woman during the launch of the “Resbakuna sa Botika” program at the Watsons SM Center in Pasig City on Thursday (Jan. 20, 2022). The Department of Health said participating pharmacies and clinics would only administer Sinovac and AstraZeneca doses, for now, citing that these vaccine brands do not need special storage requirements. (PNA photo by Joey O. Razon)

MANILA – The seven pharmaceutical stores that were primarily tapped to roll out the government's "Resbakuna sa Botika" program will more likely receive Covid-19 vaccines that require +2°C to +8°C temperature, National Task Force (NTF) against Covid-19 chief implementer, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., said Thursday.

Galvez said aged 18 years old and above may avail themselves of the booster shots in select Metro Manila branches of Watsons, Mercury Drug, The Generics Pharmacy, Generika, South Star Drug, QualiMed, and Healthway.

"Ang ating protocol is initially yung 2 to 8 muna ang ating ilalabas sa mga (Our protocol is to initially provide vaccines requiring two to eight temperature for) pharmacies so that we will not have any complications for negative 20 and negative 80 jabs," Galvez said at the sidelines after a ceremonial vaccination in Watsons SM Supercenter branch in Pasig City.

Galvez said the "Resbakuna sa Botika" targets to ramp up the Covid-19 vaccination program, which will be piloted for a week and soon be expanded to other drug stores across the country.

Economic front-liners are much encouraged to get booster shots in the drug stores, upon registration.

Galvez, meanwhile, noted that senior citizens and persons with comorbidities are more encouraged to go to regular vaccination centers so that medical concerns following the administration of the vaccines could be attended immediately.

In a televised Laging Handa public briefing, Health Undersecretary and National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) Chair Myrna Cabotaje said Sinovac and AstraZeneca jabs will be distributed to pharmacies for the trial rollout of booster shots.

“Kasi dapat maging gamay ng ating mga pharmacies, iyong magbabakuna iyong mga bakuna (The pharmacies, the vaccinators, must be used to handling the jabs),” she said.

Cabotaje added the participating drug stores will be given other brands after Phase 1.

“Kasi iyong Pfizer at saka iyong Moderna, kaunting sensitive handling. So, ini-start muna natin para maging gamay sila ay Sinovac at AstraZeneca muna sa ating mga botika (The handling of Pfizer and Moderna is sensitive. So, we’re starting with Sinovac and AstraZeneca in pharmacies),” she said.

She said the NVOC will evaluate and decide on expanding the rollout in the National Capital Region (NCR).

“After NCR-wide, siguro by second week or third week of February, puwede nating umpisahan sa iba’t ibang panig ng ating bansa (maybe by second or third week of February, we can start in the different parts of the country), based on the readiness assessment of our regional offices,” Cabotaje said. 

Meanwhile, Galvez thanked the government's partner drug stores for helping the country to boost the "provision of greater access to life-saving vaccines."

This initiative, he added, will be a huge augmentation to the local government units' vaccination program amid the spike of Covid-19 cases in the country.

The participating pharmaceutical branches are Mercury Drug in Pres. Quirino Avenue, Malate, Manila; Southstar Drug in Marikina; Watsons in SM Supercenter Pasig; Generika Drugstore in Signal 1, Taguig; The Generics Pharmacy in Edison St. Sun Valley, Parañaque; QualiMed Clinic in McKinley Road, Makati; and Healthway in Manila.

"We are very confident that the rollout of booster shots in pharmacies here in the National Capital Region will be a success as we hope to expand these initiatives to the rest of the country," Galvez said.

The Philippines has so far administered 121,493,405 doses of Covid-19 vaccines nationwide, with 56,444,406 Filipinos are fully vaccinated and 5,613,125 eligible individuals have received booster shots or additional doses. (with reports from Maria Teresa Montemayor/PNA)