VETERANS Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City had to turn people away for booster shots against the coronavirus after running out of supply, according to a congressman.

In a statement on Thursday, Party-list Rep. Michael T. Defensor urged Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III and vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. to ensure there is enough vaccine supply in Quezon City and other parts of the country.

“Hundreds, perhaps thousands, who waited for at least a week for their turn to receive their boosters showed up at VMMC on North Avenue, but had to go home frustrated because there was no vaccine,” he said, citing complaints from his constituents.

The government is under pressure to provide booster shots against the coronavirus amid the threat of the highly mutated Omicron variant, which has caused a fresh surge in infections in some countries.

Mr. Defensor noted that out of 209 million vaccine doses that have arrived in the country, only 107.3 million have been given out “That means we have a comfortable extra supply. So where is it?”

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said VMMC received 67,000 vaccine doses before Dec. 25 but it never asked for a refill.

“The standard operating procedure is that a replenishment in the supply of vaccines is automatic once it reaches a critical level and not zero,” he said in a mobile phone message on Thursday.

VMMC was set up in 1955 with full US government assistance under the US Veterans Administration to provide hospitalization and treatment to Filipino veterans under the US public law.

It originally catered to patients who suffered from service-connected disabilities, recognized guerrilla units, Philippine scouts and Philippine Commonwealth Army. It later extended its service to former Philippine soldiers and their dependents.

The Department of Health (DoH) had been unable to help VMMC get more vaccines because it had not updated its vaccine report, Mr. Duque said, citing a DoH representative from Quezon City.

Mr. Defensor said the hospital had been turning away hundreds of walk-ins due to lack of vaccine and personnel, accepting only those who pre-registered for booster shots. “But on Wednesday, there was no vaccine even for those who registered last week for their booster shots.”

The lawmaker added that since the hospital required pre-registration, it could have assessed the number of booster shots it needed.

“I hope they come up with a better system next time, from pre-registration to queuing up and screening at the vaccination center up to injection and post-injection monitoring,” the congressman said.

DoH has said that effective Dec. 22, fully vaccinated adults could get a single-dose booster of COVID-19 vaccine at least three months after the second dose of AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer, Sinovac or Sputnik vaccine, or at least two months after a Janssen shot.

A booster is an additional vaccine dose given after the protection mounted by initial doses starts to wane. Boosters are said to reinforce protection against severe COVID-19 outcomes especially for the elderly and seriously ill people.

The US record for daily coronavirus cases has been broken as two highly contagious variants — Delta and Omicron — have converged to disrupt holiday travel and gatherings, deplete hospital staffs and plunge the United States into another long winter, The New York Times reported.

The seven-day average of US cases topped 267,000 on Tuesday. The milestone was reached after rules were relaxed in the spring to a Delta-driven summer wave to another surge that accelerated with astonishing speed as Omicron emerged after Thanksgiving, it said. — Jaspearl Emerald G. Tan