PASIG CITY (29 November 2021) — The Philippine government is eyeing the possibility of giving COVID-19 booster shots to eligible government and economic frontliners starting next month as a precaution against the threat of the new COVID-19 variant called Omicron.

National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said in an online interview on Monday that the national government is accelerating the timeline for the administration of booster shots to the A4 category as the country now has sufficient vaccine supplies.

“Yung A4 po ay dini-discuss namin dahil maganda ang ating vaccine deliveries, mayroon na po tayong 142 million [doses] na delivered na po ngayon, [baka] pwedeng iakyat po natin ang A4 lalo na ‘yung mga nabakunahan 6 months ago pa,” Galvez said.

“Pwede namin itong i-open sa mga taong kailangang mabakunahan na kasi nakita natin ‘yung Omicron na nasa Europe na, at expected nating baka dumating dito one to two months from now,” he explained.

Galvez earlier said that booster shots for the A4 category might begin starting December 10, or during the second leg of the National Vaccination Days set from December 15 to 17.

Addressing the Omicron threat

The vaccine czar said the government has started to put in place the necessary precautionary measures such as tighter border controls to prevent the entry of the Omicron variant in the country.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) updated its Red List on Sunday, to include more countries that are now allowed inbound travel to the Philippines.

The list now includes Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy, in addition to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique.

The IATF has also directed the Department of Health to ensure the readiness of the country’s health system capacity should there be an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Galvez thus called on the public to get vaccinated and continue observing minimum health standards to achieve a better Christmas despite the Omicron threat.

“Sa lahat po ng ating mamamayan na hindi pa nagpapabakuna, lalo na ‘yung wala pang first dose, magpabakuna na po tayo,” Galvez said.

“Ito po ang pinakamagandang gift natin sa ating sarili, sa ating mga kababayan, sa ating pamilya. Kung gusto nating magkaroon ng magandang Christmas, disiplina at bakuna ang solusyon sa pandemya,” he added.

Maximizing the National Vaccination Days

Galvez said that all the local government units across the country are now ready as the National Vaccination Days kicks off today.

He said he expects over 8,000 vaccination sites to be activated, to be manned by thousands of volunteers from medical associations, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard and other agencies and organizations.

The vaccine czar also assured that there is enough supply of COVID-19 vaccines for the three-day massive vaccination event which will run until December 1.

“‘Yung bakuna po binigyan natin lahat ng regional, private sector, provincial, municipal at city health offices, binigyan natin sila ng more or less 1 million reserve. More or less 38 million [doses] na ang naka-deploy sa different warehouses,” he said.

The first leg of National Vaccination Days aims to vaccinate at least 9 million Filipinos in three days. The second round of the nationwide vaccination drive, which is focused on ramping up the number of fully vaccinated individuals, is set on December 15 to 17.

The Philippines aims to fully vaccinate at least 54 million individuals by year end, which is 70% of the country’s target population.

As of November 28, the Philippines has administered a total of 81,296,947 COVID-19 vaccine doses. Of this number, 45,430,089 have been administered as first doses, while 35,678,774 Filipinos are now fully vaccinated. ###