DAVAO CITY (22 December 2021) — The National Task Force Against COVID-19 assured Filipinos that the country has a sufficient supply of COVID-19 vaccines in response to concerns raised regarding the new policy which shortened the interval for the administration of booster shots.

The Food and Drug Administration approved on Tuesday the recommendation to cut down the interval for boosters to only three months from the previous six months after receiving the second dose of a primary two-dose vaccine.

For the primary single-dose vaccine, which includes the Janssen jabs, eligible adults can already get their booster shots after at least two months, a month earlier based on the previous three-month interval.

Shortening the intervals between primary and booster shots means more people can now get an additional layer of protection, especially with entry of the Omicron variant into the country.

During President Rodrigo Duterte’s Talk to the People public address on Tuesday, NTF chief implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said this is a positive development, and will not affect the country’s current vaccine inventory and ongoing vaccination program.

“Kahit po atin ni-limit ‘yung spacing to three months, kayang-kaya natin po, Mr. President, na suportahan ‘yung kahit mahigit na 10 million or 15 million na tao ang ating bakunahan sa boosters kasi napakalaki po ng atin pong nasa stockpile sa ngayon,” Galvez said.

“Sa ngayon po, mayroon na po tayong 90 million na nasa stockpile po natin. Mayroon pa po tayong padating na 15 million. Mahigit na 207 million po ang mare-receive po natin ngayong year. And then we can sustain the supply of our vaccination even [up] to mid-2022,” he added.

As of December 21, the country has already received a total of 192,344,945 COVID-19 vaccine doses from different manufacturers.

Galvez said the country’s vaccine supply is enough to achieve the government’s target of fully vaccinating at least 54 million Filipinos by the end of the year.

2022 vaccination program strategy

The vaccine czar also laid out the government’s plan on how to sustain the national vaccination program and continue achieving its targets until next year.

Included in this plan is fully vaccinating 77 million Filipinos by the first quarter of next year, 90 million by the second quarter, and the rest of the country’s population by the third quarter.

Galvez also committed to continue prioritizing vaccinating the unvaccinated by deploying different strategies such as house-to-house and barangay-to-barangay vaccination.

“Very effective talaga ‘yung barangay-to-barangay, ang ginawa po ng GenSan…26 [na] barangay, 26 rin ang vaccination site nila at mayroong pa po sila ng mga mobile vaccination site,” Galvez said.

“Kasi kung ang gagawin po natin na doon sa malls — sa malls lang po ang vaccination site, minsan po hindi po makapunta ‘yung mga tao doon sa malls. So kailangan talaga ibaba po sa barangay ang ating mga vaccination site,” he added.

According to Galvez, the country will continue to vaccinate the pediatric population, eventually to include those aged 5 to 11, as part of the government’s efforts to ensure the safe reopening of schools and resumption of face-to-face classes.

“‘Yung 20 million na bibilhin natin sa Pfizer, ire-reposition po natin na ‘yung 15 million, ‘yun ang gagamitin natin sa five to 11. Para po, sir, Mr. President, pagka nagsimula na po tayo ng face-to-face [classes] mapo-protektahan na po natin, lalo na po ‘yung mga elementary at saka mga secondary po,” he explained.

The vaccine czar also gave the assurance that the vulnerable population, including health workers and senior citizens, will continue to be protected by expanding the administration of booster shots.

“I believe we can prevent Omicron from [from spreading] if we will really massively vaccinate, particularly ‘yung mga A2 and A3 with our boosters,” he said.

Galvez also urged local government units not to underestimate the threat of the Omicron variant and continue to strengthen their response and mitigation efforts.

“So our message is one, preparation is very key. So we have to revisit ‘yung national government and LGU playbook. Nakita natin na-defeat po natin ang Delta. Kailangan tingnan natin kung ano ‘yung nagawa natin na maganda para at least mapaghandaan po natin ang Omicron,” he said.

“And then ‘yung pandemic response in scale, ito po nga ang [paalala] ni Sec. Duque ‘yung masking, and then we will increase testing, and then tracing, isolate and treat, and then also we will massively vaccinate,” Galvez added.

As of December 22, the Philippines has administered a total of 101,656,214 COVID-19 vaccine doses, with 45,284,617 individuals now fully vaccinated. ###