MANILA — The Philippines has fully vaccinated against COVID-19 over 3.1 million children aged 5 to 11 years old, latest data from the National Task Force against COVID-19 showed.
The figure is equivalent to nearly 22.5 percent of the target for the age group.
Among the challenges seen so far in the vaccine rollout are some parents’ doubts on the safety of vaccines.
In Caloocan City, the local government plans to step up its information drive to address the issue.
“Mababa ang ating demand o kagustuhan mula sa mga magulang o mga bata na mabakunahan laban sa COVID,” Caloocan City COVID-19 Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Rachel Basa said.
“Gagamitin natin iyong social media, iko-combat ‘yung fake news pagdating sa bakuna. Mayroon ding technology as means para mapabilis iyong pre-registration, at saka iyong pagfa-follow up sa mga pasyente,” she added.
An infectious disease specialist also advised parents to have their children vaccinated against COVID-19, especially amid the presence of more transmissible Omicron subvariants in the country.
“Napaka-importante para sa 5 to 11 years old… the fact that they’re also younger, their immune system does not work well in defending against infection, so there is also a higher possibility, compared to the 12 to 17 that they can also have more severe type of infection, even with a milder and less virulent Omicron,” Dr. Rontgene Solante said.
Meantime, children as young as 6 months old are a step closer to getting a COVID jab, after a panel of independent vaccine experts unanimously voted to recommend Moderna and Pfizer’s COVID vaccines for use on infants and toddlers under 5 years old in the United States.
The US Food and Drug Administration is expected to issue a decision on the recommendation within the week.
In the Philippines, Vaccine Expert Panel Chairperson Dr. Nina Gloriani said the country has yet to receive an application from a manufacturer for the emergency use authorization of its COVID jab on children under five.
But she expects the evaluation process to take around six months. Once approved, Gloriani said the Philippines will have to procure fresh vaccine supplies for the age group, which have a milder formulation compared to jabs used on adults.
“For Pfizer it has to be 3 micrograms per dose, and for Moderna, it’s I think 25 micrograms per dose. And Moderna will have 2 doses and Pfizer will have 3 doses,” Gloriani said.
The VEP chair reiterated that based on available data, Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID jabs are safe and effective for infants and toddlers.
Gloriani stressed that infants and toddlers also need protection against COVID, especially amid the presence of more transmissible subvariants.
“We are now getting an uptick, well not that much yet, but we still are looking at the subvariants spreading… We’re worried about that, and we do need as much protection as we could to possibly all people here in the Philippines, including young children,” she explained.
The VEP chair also believes it may be time to consider expanding the list of individuals qualified to get a 2nd booster, as the country sees a slight increase in active COVID cases. For now, only health workers, senior citizens and individuals with comorbidities are eligible for an additional booster in the Philippines.
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