MANILA (UPDATE) — The Philippine government is planning to make COVID-19 shots available for students in elementary and secondary schools, in a bid to ramp up vaccination coverage that is seen helpful in the resumption of in-person classes, officials said.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the jabs could be given in school clinics, similar to how vaccines for other diseases are offered to students.
"Kapag um-attend sila, parang 'yong dati noong bata tayo, ini-injection-an tayo ng kanilang infirmary ng iba't ibang bakuna like [for] measles, sa polio. So gagawin din natin ito for COVID for the basic learners from 5 to 11 years of age," Duque said in a recorded Cabinet meeting aired Tuesday.
(When they attend in-person classes, similar to what was done when we were children, we would get injected in the infirmary with different vaccines like for measles and polio. So we will do the same thing for COVID for the basic learners from 5 to 11 years of age.)
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez has also "given the instruction to make the vaccines available for all the schools," said Vince Dizon, presidential adviser on COVID-19 response.
"We have the supply... we have about remaining 10 million doses [for the pediatric age group] in stock so we have the vaccines and these can be easily deployed in all our schools for our children," Dizon said.
The officials raised the idea of on-campus vaccination after Education Secretary Leonor Briones reported that only 676 private schools were conducting limited in-person classes, equivalent to 5.47 percent of the total 16,000 schools.
"This is a challenge to us," Briones said, adding that the Department of Education (DepEd) was "aggressively endeavoring to convince" private schools to reopen for classroom sessions.
Based on consultations, parents of private schools students "are still quite apprehensive about letting their children go back to face-to-face classes," Dizon said.
He added that the inter-agency task force on COVID-19 would issue a resolution "strongly encouraging private schools to go back to face-to-face [classes] as soon as possible."
Meanwhile, 25,668 or 56.89 percent of public schools have reopened for limited in-person classes, Briones said.
Overall, 26,344 schools have started conducting limited face-to-face classes, with over 6.17 million participating learners, she said.
The education chief also reported that 93 percent of DepEd's 947,000 teaching and non-teaching personnel have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Education advocates earlier urged the government to speed up the reopening of schools, arguing that remote learning was not as effective as face-to-face classes.
The DepEd has said it planned to get more schools to reopen for in-person classes in the next school year, tentatively scheduled to start on Aug. 22.
A recent report from the United Nations Children's Fund found that the Philippines had the longest pandemic school closure among 122 countries, at 70 weeks.
In higher education, colleges and universities have been holding on-campus COVID-19 vaccination since October 2021.