The government hopes to expand a pilot program in which pharmacies will administer booster shots against COVID-19, even as it prepares for a third nationwide mass vaccination drive that will include minors.
In a briefing Wednesday, Presidential Adviser for the COVID-19 Response, Vivencio Dizon, said the government aims to pilot test its “Resbakuna sa Botika” for a week starting today (Thursday) before expanding it to other parts of the country.
In Metro Manila, The Generics Pharmacy, Generika Drugstore, Healthway Clinic, Mercury Drug, Watsons, QualiMed, and Southstar Drug will participate in the pilot test, he said.
“Tomorrow, we will open four pharmacies in Metro Manila and on Friday, we will open three, including two clinics. And in the coming weeks, we will expand that. The goal is for us to bring vaccination closer to our countrymen so that they can be vaccinated even faster and more people can be vaccinated,” he said in Filipino.
Dizon said the pharmacies will administer only booster shots.
Meanwhile, he said, the National Task Force Against Covid-19 (NTF) is just waiting for daily cases to slow down before rolling out another round of the National Vaccination Days throughout the country.
The government aims to have 77 million Filipinos complete their COVID-19 vaccines by the end of the first quarter.
Acting presidential spokesman and Cabinet secretary Karlo Nograles said the government is eyeing the first quarter of the year to conduct another nationwide vaccine drive to include minors.
He said the Omicron variant continues to pose a threat to the country’s health care system capacities, as he underscored the need to ramp up vaccination in other regions as the National Capital Region (NCR) and its neighboring provinces registered sharp increases in the number of COVID-19 cases.
Last year, the government conducted a nationwide vaccination drive that targeted to fully vaccinate 54 million adults by the end of 2021.
So far, a total of 56,027,759 Filipinos have been fully vaccinated while 5,362,518 have received their booster shots.
Also on Wednesday, Senator Joel Villanueva said pharmacists and other personnel in private drug stores that will serve as COVID-19 vaccination centers must receive the benefits granted to health workers under the 2022 national budget and other laws.
“Frontline health workers fighting against COVID should be entitled to and receive every benefit that the government can provide. It is their right, and the very least we can do to honor their dedication to end the pandemic,” the chairman of the Senate labor and employment committee said.
“If they get infected while doing their work, they should get free medical care and receive monetary compensation. This is what the law and common decency tell us to do,” Villanueva said.
Under the General Appropriation Act for 2022, health care workers who get sick with COVID-19 shall receive P15,000 in compensation for mild or moderate cases; P100,000 for severe or critical; and P1 million if resulting in death.
While workers in private pharmacies are not demanding pay for “the valuable public service they will be doing,” the government should compensate them properly, he said.