COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters in the Philippines: Key Facts

Filipinos can now receive an extra shot of protection against COVID-19. The DOH-approved vaccine boosters for all persons over 18. Studies have shown that vaccine effectiveness drops over time, but a third dose (or booster) can prop up immunity. The Center for Disease Control recommends that everyone over 18 receive a vaccine booster shot.

What is a vaccine booster?

A vaccine booster, or booster shot, provides an extra dose of the vaccine to fully vaccinated people. Boosters are a normal part of the vaccination process for many diseases. For example, you may remember receiving a booster injection for childhood illnesses, such as measles or whooping cough.

Why do I need a booster shot?

Even once you’re vaccinated, your immunity against COVID goes down over time. This happens for a couple of reasons:

Waning immunity. When you’re first vaccinated, your body creates a surge of antibodies. These antibodies act as your immune system’s “frontliners” against COVID infection. But over time, the frontliners weaken and you become less protected against the virus. This is natural and happens to some extent with all vaccines. Eventually, you need a booster injection to reestablish immunity. In the chart below, you can see the waning immunity for several COVID-19 vaccines.

Chart shows reduced vaccine efficacy 4-6 months after last dose of Pfizer, Moderna, Sinovac, Johnsons & Johnson, and AstraZeneca.
Protection from vaccines drops over time for all major vaccine brands.

New COVID variants. COVID-19 variants are another good reason to get a vaccine booster. The coronavirus changes quickly. We’ve already seen the rise of several COVID variants--Alpha, Delta, and now, Omicron. A booster shot may give added protection against new strains.

Who can get a Covid-19 vaccine booster in the Philippines?

The DOH has expanded its vaccine booster program to all adults. Anyone over age 18 now qualifies for a vaccine booster. You do not have to be in a priority group to avail of your booster shot. If you were vaccinated at least 3 months ago, you may get a vaccine booster as soon as December 3, 2021. People who received the Janssen vaccine can get a booster after two months.

How can I get a Covid-19 booster shot?

Covid-19 vaccine boosters are available in vaccination centers throughout the Philippines. A booster shot is given the same way as the vaccine--through a quick injection in the arm. Be sure to bring your vaccination record and a valid ID card.

If you were vaccinated with the following vaccines, you can receive a booster three months from the date of your second dose:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • Sinovac
  • Gamaleya Sputnik
  • AstraZeneca

If you received the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, the Philippine DOH and CDC recommend a booster shot two months from the date of your vaccination.

Can my booster injection be a different brand?

Yes. Preliminary research suggests that a “mix and match” approach could strengthen your immune response. Allowing a different brand choice also makes getting a booster more convenient and accessible. The DOH currently allows you to request a different booster brand. People who've been vaccinated with the less effective Sinovac may want to opt for a different brand for the third dose.

Chart showing DOH-approved vaccine booster combinations.
You can choose which COVID 19 vaccine booster you receive. The DOH chart details approved combinations.

Is the formulation for booster shots the same as the vaccine?

Yes, a COVID booster shot has the same formulation as the COVID vaccine. Moderna administers a half-dose of their vaccine as a booster. All other FDA-approved brands administer a single dose of the COVID vaccine as a booster shot.

Is there a Sinovac booster shot?

There is a Sinovac booster shot. As with other brands, the booster is the same formulation as the vaccine shot. The Sinovac booster shot is given three months after your second vaccine dose. You can choose the Sinovac booster or use a different vaccine maker’s booster shot.

Importance of booster shots for the elderly and immunocompromised

Vaccine effectiveness may be more short-lived for senior citizens and people with reduced immune function. Data shows that they often don’t have an effective immune response after vaccination. For these most vulnerable groups, the shot isn’t so much a booster. It’s needed just to get them to baseline immunity. For this reason, the CDC strongly recommends a vaccine booster for the elderly and immunocompromised people. You may not need to wait the recommended 3 months; speak to your doctor about the best time for you.

Are there side effects to the COVID booster shot?

Side effects from the booster are similar to the side effects of the vaccine. The most common complaints are pain at the injection site and fatigue. A survey of 240,000 people found that the booster shot’s side effects were ‘similar or better’ than the effects of vaccination. Only 1% of respondents felt poorly enough to seek medical attention afterward. 

Am I still considered fully vaccinated if I don’t get a booster?

In the Philippines, you are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after you complete your second dose. For now, there is no expiration date on your vaccination certificate. It’s not dependent on booster shot status. However, other countries, such as Singapore, have made a third dose compulsory to be considered fully vaccinated.

A nurse administers a dose of COVID-19 vaccine booster.
A vaccine booster offers increased protection against COVID-19. (Image source: WHO)

Quick facts about the vaccine booster

  • All adults can get a booster shot in the Philippines
  • The booster is strongly recommended for the elderly and immunocompromised
  • Most people must wait 3 months after their final vaccine dose, with some exceptions.
  • If you received the one-shot vaccine, Janssen, boosters are given at 2 months.
  • Booster side effects are generally milder than the side effects from the vaccine
  • A booster is essential for controlling the spread of Omicron.