MANILA — Hundreds taking their COVID-19 booster shots in Metro Manila are finding a quicker alternative to large vaccination sites in the pharmacies and clinics that have recently began to offer jabs.
Since the government opened its “Resbakuna sa Botika” expansion of its vaccination drive on Thursday, 1,413 people got vaccinated there in the first 2 days, the National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) said.
Five pharmacies and 2 clinics are participating in the pilot run.
In the pharmacies, 422 booster shots were administered on both days, according to the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF COVID-19).
At the Generika Drugstore branch in Signal Village, Taguig City, more than 100 people already received jabs within 5 hours of opening on Saturday.
While authorities recommend registering online first, most of those who came for boosters there were walk-ins and lived in the city.
Many got vaccinated at a room inside within 10 to 15 minutes of registering.
Some compared the convenience to their previous experience waiting in long lines at vaccination sites.
Randy Arizo initially planned to go to a site in Makati before learning of the Taguig pharmacy.
"Wala pa sigurong 5 minutes, nalagyan na kaagad ako ng booster (It took less than 5 minutes for me to get my booster shot),” he said.
"Mas kampante akong lumabas at alam kong safe ako."
(I’m more confident now to go out knowing that I’m safe.)
Meanwhile, the Watsons Pharmacy at the SM Supercenter mall in Pasig City saw over 400 booster recipients within the first 3 days.
From giving out 50 shots on the first day, the drugstore expanded to administering 200 jabs beginning a day after.
A number of those who lined up like Rosalie Go were workers at the mall who found it easier to get their jabs in the same building.
“Naka-duty po ako. So pinayagan kami magpa-booster ng manager para sa amin. Balik kami kaagad ng work,” Go said.
(I’m on duty but our manager allowed us a break to get boosted. We’ll go back to work after this.)
Gemsy Siochi, the pharmacy’s senior manager, said while they are still assessing the rollout, it has gone smoothly so far and with a good turnout.
“We’ve seen people who are really interested to go to the malls, and then they are actually excited and happy to see that finally pharmacies are actually taking part in the vaccination,” she said.
"We are taking note of all the necessary feedbacks for us to improve as we move along.”
Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje, who heads the NVOC, said the government plans to expand the vaccination drive to other branches of the accredited pharmacies and clinics in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon by February.
This will be followed by a nationwide rollout, which will require a readiness assessment and training for the pharmacists.
"We are now looking at the possibility of fast tracking the training and possibly giving it for free for the next batch of pharmacists," Cabotaje told ANC’s Top Story on Saturday.
While access to modules and training is online and free, the participating companies still paid for training.
In-house personnel of the pharmacies and clinics mainly handle the satellite vaccination sites, with additional people provided by local government acting as encoders.
“We’re looking at making them more convenient and more accessible to the community so that it will be more patronized,” Cabotaje added.
The Philippines has administered a total of 122,889,494 vaccine doses as of January 21. More than 57 million have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.