Medicine Cabinet


On Jan. 20, the country started booster vaccinations for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in at least seven pharmacies and primary care clinics in Metro Manila.  

People 18 years old and older registered for booster shots at Mercury Drug, Generika Drugstore, Southstar Drug, The Generics Pharmacy, Watsons, and Ayala Healthcare’s clinics, namely, Healthway and Qualimed. The government announced that this initiative, called Resbakuna sa Botika, will be scaled up to include more pharmacies and clinics. 

The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), composed of providers of life-saving medicines and vaccines across the supply chain, welcomes and supports measures that will widen access to COVID-19 therapies and vaccines. 

This undertaking by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), announced by vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. and Vivencio B. Dizon, deputy chief implementer of the country’s pandemic plan, last week, will be crucial as the country confronts a surge of cases due to Omicron among other SARS-COV-2 variants. The World Health Organization has consistently said that vaccines prevent people from getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. 

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in private retail pharmacies and primary care clinics was one of the recommendations we have advocated to enable faster roll-out. Under Department of Health Administrative Order 2020-0017, drugstores may conduct “other additional activities but may require appropriate regulation or be handled on a case-to-case basis,” but should properly apply for variation of their License to Operate. 

With the government centrally procuring vaccines, the inventory may be shared with retailers and clinics, multiplying the available number of vaccination sites in the country. Pharmacies and primary care clinics could augment vaccination efforts by local government units affected by the current COVID-19 surge. This move will help decongest current vaccination sites, and reduce the waiting time for the people. Since pharmacies and clinics are also strategically located in cities and provinces, individuals won’t need to travel far. 

Pharmacies and private clinics participating in this effort must conform to government standards as vaccines require strict temperature handling and storage, among others. There are specific requirements under Food and Drug Administration Advisory 2017-131, including: qualification of the person administering the vaccine; dedicated space for the activity; sanitation; compliance to good distribution and storage practices, in particular, cold chain requirements; patient counseling; and monitoring and reporting of adverse events following immunization. 

Professionals administering the vaccine must also be trained in administering, monitoring of adverse events, counseling, and proper disposal. Like other healthcare professionals, pharmacists have been serving as frontliners, extending their commitment and services in hospitals, clinics, drugstores and pharmaceutical companies. Under the Pharmacy Law, administration of adult vaccines by duly trained pharmacists in licensed drugstores is permitted. In fact, pharmacists have been training on immunization even prior to the pandemic. Pharmacies have been sites for adult flu and pneumococcal vaccination.  

Overall, Resbakuna sa Botika will help the country achieve its target of vaccinating 90 million Filipinos, as well as in providing boosters to the eligible adult population. 

This new framework may be expanded to other COVID-19 therapies with Emergency Use Approval (EUA). In an interview with The Chiefs on One News, PHAP Chairman Dr. Beaver Tamesis said that making COVID-19 therapies available in pharmacies and clinics would be “democratizing” access to these life-saving interventions. Easy access to these COVID therapies will help save more lives, improve home care management, as well as reduce the risk of hospitalization and burden on the healthcare system.


Teodoro B. Padilla is the executive director of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), which represents the biopharmaceutical medicines and vaccines industry in the country. Its members are at the forefront of research and development efforts for COVID-19 and other diseases that affect Filipinos.