NTF ready to procure Covid-19 booster shots: Galvez

Medical and Health Care

The National Task Force Against Covid-19 is preparing to buy additional doses as booster shots as it has negotiated with four manufacturers.

NTF Against Covid-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said these shots would be initially allocated for the A1 priority group composed of medical front-liners and healthcare workers.

“We are waiting for the recommendation and evaluation of the NITAG (National Immunization Technical Advisory Group) as well as from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the need for booster shots in the country,” he said Thursday.

Galvez said the WHO has yet to recommend the use of booster shots, while Philippine vaccine experts are assessing the feasibility of administering them.

“But once they give us the cue that boosters are needed, we will process and arrange the procurement,” he said. “We have started the negotiation and we will sign a non-binding term sheet soon just to lock in the supply.”

The national government, he said, has allocated PHP45 billion for the procurement of booster shots.

Galvez said the Department of Finance had given the assurance that funds to procure the vaccines would be available once the use of booster shots is approved.

The vaccine czar said the NTF is working to ensure that the Philippines would secure booster shots, especially that other countries have started to use them.

Galvez added that the prospective suppliers can ship the booster shots toward the end of the fourth quarter or early 2022.

“But for now, we will focus the inoculation program on those who haven’t received their vaccines yet,” he said.

The Philippines has so far received 52,792,130 doses as of Sept. 2, including the 188,370 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from the COVAX Facility that arrived Thursday night.

As of Sept. 1, a total of 34,102,314 doses have been administered nationwide — around 19.9 million doses were given as the first shot.

The country’s fully vaccinated individuals have reached 14,105,330 and account for 18.22 percent of the Philippines’ target population.

“Malayo pa tayo sa ating (We are still far from achieving the) target of 77 million fully vaccinated individuals. But we will try to accelerate this September and October and work on achieving 20 million fully vaccinated Filipinos by the end of the month,” Galvez said.

The NTF is eyeing to scale up the administration of the vaccines’ second shot from five to six million doses this September to increase the number of fully vaccinated individuals.

“Apart from ensuring the stability of vaccine supply, we are also focusing on the administration of the second dose and increasing the capacities of vaccination sites. We will aspire na makuha ‘yung (to reach) 20 million by the end of the month,” Galvez said.

Source: Philippines News Agency