To prevent crowding in pharmacies set to administer COVID-19 jabs to the public, Malacañang said Tuesday expected vaccine recipients would have to pre-register before arriving at participating drugstores.
Acting presidential spokesperson, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, made this remark after testing czar Vince Dizon announced the pilot rollout of COVID-19 vaccination in select pharmacies and clinics from January 20 to 21.
“Pre-registration is required). So that way, we can manage the flow of those showing up at drugstores and private clinics that are participating in this pilot implementation,” Nograles said in a Palace press briefing.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health has ramped up the COVID-19 vaccination in regions with slow operations in preparation for a possible surge caused by the more transmissible Omicron variant.
During a radio interview, Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said the agency was anticipating a similar experience with the Delta variant, wherein cases in other regions surged two to three weeks after the increase in Metro Manila.
“We are currently ramping up vaccination, especially identifying areas that are somewhat slow in their inoculation operations,” she said.
“We are anticipating a similar experience with Delta. Cases in NCR increased first but after two to three weeks, case surge in other regions followed,” she said.
Vergeire said cases in other regions have started to increase.
Dubbed “Resbakuna sa mga Botika,” Dizon said the program would start with seven participating drugstores.
Dizon said they talked to Mercury Drug, Watsons, Rose Pharmacy, Southstar Drug, Generika, and clinics like Healthway and QualiMed.
Nograles said each of the seven participating drugstores/clinics would be provided with an initial 500 doses of COVID-19 vaccines per week or a total of 3,500 doses.
“If it’s 500 [doses] per week, per botika times seven, that is our allocation for that week. So, seven times 500 – 3,500 [doses],” he said.
Nograles also noted that participating drugstores and clinics would be implementing this vaccination drive in coordination with local government units.
“The responsibility of registration and documentation lies within LGUs while pharmacies will oversee administration,” he added.
Booster recipients only
Meanwhile, Nograles clarified that Resbakuna sa mga Botika would initially cater to recipients of booster shots only.
He assured that the pilot implementation of the program would be adjusted accordingly.
“We will tweak and perfect it accordingly, depending on learnings we have while we are piloting the Bakuna sa Botika,” he added.
According to the Department of Health, fully vaccinated individuals are allowed to receive their booster shots at least three months after the second dose of a primary-two dose vaccine or at least two months after the primary single-dose vaccine is given.
AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer, Sinovac, or Sputnik are two-dose vaccines while Janssen is the sole single-dose vaccine currently approved for use in the country.
Eleven manufacturers of self-administered antigen test kits have applied to the Food and Drug Administration for approval, the Department of Health said Tuesday.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the FDA would evaluate the antigen test kits before sending these to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine for performance validation.
This normally takes about two days, according to Vergeire.
“Usually based on the load of work of RITM, although they were instructed to prioritize this, it will take them about two days no, or 48 hours for them to finish a performance validation for a specific kit,” she said.
Afterward, the antigen test kits will be returned to the FDA.
Meanwhile, Vergeire said the DOH was also looking into lowering the prices of antigen tests.
Vergeire said the DOH was coordinating with the Department of Trade and Industry on the matter.
“The government is trying to put a price cap on antigen kits. We are reviewing the matter. There already is a price cap on our testing methodologies,” she said.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III previously said the DOH was eyeing to lower RT-PCR prices.
Recommended booster none
A Department of Health official said there was no recommended booster yet for the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.
DOH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje, during a briefing with the House Committee on Health, said experts are still studying what booster shot could be given to individuals who received Sinopharm as their primary vaccine.
Cabotaje said even the Food and Drug Administration had no word yet on this matter.
She said: “Unfortunately, we are still studying our policy and our experts’ group are still looking for what can be used as a booster for those who first got Sinopharm. There are not enough studies, there is no data available elsewhere abroad, even from Sinopharm, as to what brand/s can be used as a booster vaccine. We are constantly asking our experts,” Cabotaje said.
At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Cabotaje said experts were still determining the booster shot appropriate to individuals who received Sinopharm as their primary vaccine.
Malacañang has said President Duterte already got a booster shot against COVID-19 and that it was Sinopharm.