Boosters in the Philippines against the novel coronavirus have been available to anyone over 18 since late 2021, but supply was an issue. When it was finally available to us, I made sure we got our boosters right away.
The spouse and I were both boosted with Pfizer. We were vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson in August 2021, so we are grateful to have Pfizer.
The J&J jabs were donated by the United States of America, and millions of Pfizer shots were donated by the USA, as well. And since the boosters were open to anyone over 18 years old, we did not feel like we were taking a shot from anyone in our current host country.
This is not like the USA. To get boosters in this region, I had to scour Facebook for information. This country relies on Facebook for almost everything official at the local level here in Malay, Aklan.
Boosters in the Philippines
Here is what I had to do to get us registered: visit the personal Facebook page of a woman named Madjoy Celest Tayco. I don’t know her, but someone told me she is the head nurse here.
She posted information on vaccinations back in August, with her settings on ‘global’ so anyone could see it. But I missed the Google Docs signup form she posted because we’re not friends, and I didn’t know to follow her. The Malay Health Office eventually shared her post, but I didn’t know to look there, either.
We ended up getting vaccinated in August without any problem, thanks to our Motag Barangay (village) officials and the processors at the vaccination site from the Municipality of Malay (like an American county).
Because of that near-miss, I’ve recently checked Madjoy’s personal Facebook page for booster information. Lo and behold, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, she posted a Google Docs signup form for boosters.
Preregistration was required. The Malay Health Office eventually shared her post days later – I’m guessing because the office was closed for the holiday, but I cannot explain the lag.
The forms were in a mix of Filipino and English languages. Google Translate was my good friend. To be sure my effort to preregister Theo and myself was successful, I called the Malay Health Office the first day they were open after the holidays (a Monday). They were polite and helpful, and assured me we were on the list.
The next night, Tuesday, Madjoy announced on her personal Facebook page that preregistered people would receive a text message with the day you could get boosted. I got the text later that night informing us to appear for our boosters the next day.
Since the slow rollout was due to limited supply, I decided to go an hour before they opened Wednesday morning. I wanted to be first in line to make sure we received Pfizer. We were indeed first, but dozens of people ‘cut’ us because it was a bit unorganized in the beginning.
No problem. Turns out there was enough. Ironically — the gentleman who vaccinated me in August also boosted me.
We were at the booster site for nearly four hours.
As a world traveler watching this pandemic unfold in crazy ways, it has been extremely important to me that we get jabbed with leading American brands that are accepted in the majority of countries. For awhile, for example, Sinovac was not recognized as valid in the UK or the USA – now it is – but who knows when that might change.
I had no side effects aside from a sore arm. Theo had hot flashes shortly after the jab.
Now, several days later, we can be confident that our immune systems are ramping up for more protection against the Omicron variant, which is now here in the Philippines, and quite possibly in Malay.
Omicron in the Philippines
News reports of a man’s death on Boracay were followed by reports officials were going to test the cadaver to see if he died of Omicron. There are dozens of confirmed cases of the new variant. Ironically, some people returning home from the USA brought it here. (And also from other countries.)
The genome sequencing in the Philippines is still painfully slow, so no one knows how widespread Omicron is. But cases are surging. There is one machine in Manila that sequences variants. At last check, the country was only able to sequence one-half of one percent of samples. Yea — just .5%!
In response to the current surges of cases (which are likely Omicron), more strict guidelines for travel are about to be implemented, including mandatory negative tests before entry into Aklan Province and its famous Boracay Island, which is across the bay from where we’ve rented an apartment for one year and ten months.
Right before the holidays, the local governments axed that requirement because the case count was decreasing. And now? People are canceling trips to Boracay, and airlines are canceling flights. It’s already much less crowded than the end of the year, when nearly everyone on the island came from Manila.
At least the Omicron variant doesn’t appear to be as deadly as Delta.
One day we will leave this country, and we’ll need proof of our vaccinations and boosters. And while that process does not seem to rely on Facebook, it’s still quite a process to get an official vaccination card that will be recognized by countries around the world. Right now we have a local government card.
Good thing we have plenty of time. Under the current rules, based on our arrival in November 2019, we need to leave this country by March 2023. (Three-year tourist visa, plus a four-month grace period due for tourists who arrived before the pandemic.)
Last – speaking of years – happy New Year a little late. I hope our readers are keeping travel hope alive and well for 2022! Life is now! Happy trails and more SERENITY.