THE NATIONAL government is looking at possible incentives for vaccinators who will participate in inoculation drives in select drugstores, a pandemic official said on Wednesday. 

Vaccination against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in designated pharmacies and clinics will start in Metro Manila on Jan. 20 and 21, and the program will later be expanded nationwide.

“We are discussing that now because pharmacies have volunteered to provide their service and we thank them for that,” Vivencio B. Dizon, deputy chief implementer of the country’s pandemic plan, told a televised news briefing in Filipino on Wednesday. 

“We are now talking with the Department of Health on the possible incentives that we could give especially to the pharmacists in drugstores,” he added. 

Among the drug stores and clinics tapped by the government for its so-called Resbakuna sa mga Botika program are Generika Drugstore, Healthway, Mercury Drug, QualiMed Health Network, Southstar Drug, The Generics Pharmacy, and Watsons.

Mr. Dizon said the pilot run will be held to assess the capacity of pharmacies to conduct vaccinations.

“We will assess the pilot after one week,” he said. “Then we will determine how the program can be expanded to other areas in the country.”

The presidential palace earlier said the pilot run will only cater to recipients of booster shots, noting that the initial implementation will be expanded accordingly. 

The Philippines has so far fully vaccinated more than 56 million people as of Jan. 18, while 59.26 million have received an initial dose, data from the Health department showed. About 5.36 million booster shots have been administered as of Tuesday, it added. 

Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) pressed for the immediate certification of home antigen test kits amid the surge in local coronavirus cases. 

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, in a virtual session of Power Mornings on Wednesday, said the DTI wants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fast-track the accreditation of home antigen test kits for COVID-19 so that the products could be officially sold across drugstores. 

According to Mr. Lopez, there have been proposals since last year for the use of self-administered antigen test kits as a means of self-regulation to help prevent transmissions. 

“This is our way really to not overwhelm the testing facilities. I believe (that) in the new normal, it is up to us to test ourselves before we go out to big crowds and attend big events or gatherings,” Mr. Lopez said. 

“I believe that the COVID-19 vaccine is to protect ourselves but home-testing/self-testing is to protect others. If we don’t feel well and then we test positive using the home antigen test kit, we should not be allowed to go out anymore,” he added.

During a recent taped meeting of President Rodrigo R. Duterte with his Cabinet, FDA Director-General Oscar G. Gutierrez, Jr. disclosed that there are nine additional applications from antigen test kit manufacturers for a special certification that will allow the home use of the products. 

Mr. Gutierrez said the nine new applications brought the overall pending applications to 11, which were forwarded to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) for testing. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Revin Mikhael D. Ochave