MANILA — The Commission on Higher Education said Tuesday the inter-agency task force leading the country's pandemic response is set to discuss the matter of possibly vaccinating students against COVID-19.
"Magbabakuna ba tayo ng mga estudyante at mga bata? This is going to be discussed, by the way, in the IATF this week," CHED Chairman Prospero de Vera said in a press briefing during the celebration of the 1st National Higher Education Day.
(Should we vaccinate students and children? This is going to be discussed by the way in the IATF this week.)
De Vera said there are countries that are thinking of vaccinating students so they can resume in-person classes. He said the plan is also a recognition of students' mental health concerns.
Physical classes have been suspended since the onset of the pandemic, with students using printed modules, online, TV and radio lessons for classes. Many have cited struggles in off-site learning, particularly those who lack access to stable internet connection.
"The mental health of students are really getting affected and they'd like the students to be going out of their homes more frequently. The answer in other countries is to vaccinate them," he said.
Secretary Carlito Galvez, who is in charge of the country's vaccination program, earlier said the Philippine government is also eyeing to include individuals aged 12 to 17 in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.
The United States recently allowed the use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 12.
In the Philippines, many groups have called on the government to implement limited in-person classes, citing the challenges of distance learning.
In the press briefing, De Vera said 64 higher education institutions have been allowed to hold limited in-person instruction for their medical and allied health programs.
If medical students are found to be safe from the virus during the conduct of physical classes, in-person instruction can be expanded to other programs, De Vera said.
"First we have to see whether the first batch of those allowed limited face-to-face, whether the limited face-to-face worked, meaning we have to get data if the students are really safe," he said.
"The next batch most probably will be engineering, information technology, industrial technology, maritime. Because these are degrees, degree programs where you have a lot of hands-on activities that cannot be delivered virtually," he added.