AN INDUSTRY leader said major pharmacies may start vaccinating individuals against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) anytime in the first quarter of the year after the Department of Health gives the go signal.

“Targeted first quarter i-roll out pod sa Davao City (The roll out in Davao City is targeted to be in the first quarter). The goal is to widen the access sa (to) vaccines,” Dr. Kenny James Merin, president of the Philippine Pharmacists Association Davao City Chapter, said in a text message on Tuesday, January 25.

Merin said the initial vaccination roll-out in pharmacies will be limited to chain drug stores such as Mercury Drug, Watsons Pharmacy, The Generics Pharmacy, Generika Drugstore, and South Star Drug.

He added that it is important for participating pharmacies to be in strategic locations that are easy to access.

Based on the pilot roll-out in NCR, Merin said Davao pharmacies will initially administer booster doses only but first and second doses may be feasible in the future.

“Too early to say but for sure that is feasible,” Merin said, adding that most of the guidelines for the roll-out in pharmacies will depend on the pilot run in NCR.

He added that it is not yet determined whether the pharmacies will cater to walk-ins or pre-registration. But according to DOH-Davao, pharmacies will be allowed to administer to the general adult population except for senior citizens and persons with comorbidities.

DOH-Davao clarified that the rollout is conducted in a phased approach. It is still being implemented in the selected pilot sites in the National Capital Region (NCR) which started last January 20, 2022.

The Phase 2 will cover additional vaccination sites in NCR as determined by the National Vaccination Operation Center (NVOC). The Phase 3 will expand the rollout in other regions, depending on site readiness as determined by the Center for Health Development.

As soon as Phase 3 will be implemented, vaccination in pharmacies in the region will then start to accommodate individuals 18 years and above under Priority Group A1 (health workers), Expanded Priority group A1, A4 or workers in essential service, A5 or poor population, and the rest of the adult population.

However, the pediatric population, senior citizens, and individuals with comorbidities will not be allowed to be vaccinated in pharmacies.

Only the administration of booster doses of eligible Priority Groups will be implemented in pharmacies. The expansion to include administration of primary dose will be evaluated after the Phase II rollout.

“Ready pod ang mga pharmacists as healthcare providers na mutabang mapaspas atong pagbakuna (Our pharmacists are ready to be healthcare providers that will help fast-track our vaccination roll out),” said Merin.

Meanwhile, DOH-Davao is now preparing for the vaccination rollout in pharmacies.

In the circular issued by the Department of Health DC 2022-0013, pharmacists to serve as vaccinators are required to be certified immunizing pharmacists after undergoing the training offered by the Philippine Pharmacists Association as authorized by the Professional Regulation Commission.

All members of the vaccination team should also be fully vaccinated prior to the conduct of vaccination in the pharmacy.

The Regional Vaccination Operation Center or Local Vaccination Operation Center are mandated to assess the pharmacies that would like to participate in the rollout.

Meanwhile, the LGUs are to provide oversight to the implementation of vaccination services in pharmacies and to serve as the implementing unit. (With PIA)