The Philippines begins the launch of the second booster dose against COVID

A healthcare worker participates in a simulation for COVID-19 vaccination in preparation for his arrival, at an elementary school turned vaccine command center in Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines, Feb.16, 2021. (Reuters / Eloisa Lopez / File Photo )

The Philippines began administering the second COVID-19 booster dose to immunocompromised adults on Monday, joining a growing number of Asian countries offering a fourth vaccine.

Nearly 61 percent of the Philippines’ 110 million people have been vaccinated, while nearly 13 million people have received their first booster doses, according to government data.

Of the 690,000 people deemed most vulnerable, between 7,000 and 13,000 were initially targeted for the second round of boosters, to increase protection against COVID and its variants.

“Due to increased vaccination coverage, while COVID-19 is still present, we may consider it an endemic disease in the near future,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque told a public forum.

Among those who approved the use of the second boosters are South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, who hope to prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus, particularly among its elders, as it will remove most of the remaining curbs this week.

The Philippines has been cautious with its reopening, despite efforts to revive an economy that contracted by more than 9% in 2020, having been one of the fastest growing Asians before the pandemic.

With 3.68 million overall cases and over 60,000 deaths, the country has suffered one of the worst COVID crises in Southeast Asia, although new daily infections have dropped significantly, now at an average of 207 per day, only 1% of the peak, according to a Reuters global data tracker.

—Reportage by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty