MANILA — The government has ordered the fast-tracking of COVID-19 vaccination for teachers and school personnel, the Department of Health (DOH) said Monday as the country prepared to hold a pilot study of limited in-person classes in select schools.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said teachers and school personnel who would take part in the pilot implementation are now required to get inoculated against the respiratory illness.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones earlier said COVID-19 vaccination was not a requirement for participating school personnel but Vergeire said the policy was overturned following consultations with child health experts.
"This was agreed on by the Department of Education and the Department of Health that indeed, vaccination should be there to ensure the safety of our children," Vergeire said in a virtual press briefing.
"Ito po ay naiparating na natin sa ating vaccine cluster, kung saan nakapagbigay ng suporta sina [vaccine czar] Secretary [Carlito] Galvez tungkol dito sa pagbabakuna na ito," she added.
(The government's vaccine cluster was already informed of the new policy and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez gave his support on this vaccination.)
Vergeire said the National COVID-19 Vaccination Operations Center already issued an advisory, ordering the fast-tracking of inoculation for "all unvaccinated public and private school teachers and non-teaching personnel."
During the school opening program last Sept. 13, Education Undersecretary Alain Pascua said about 40 percent of the DepEd's nearly 1 million workforce was already vaccinated against COVID-19, based on reports from field offices.
The DOH has yet to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for school-age children.
But under the guidelines of the pilot implementation, schools are asked to coordinate with their respective local government units or private pediatricians "to complete routine infant vaccines" for students attending in-person classes.
The DepEd has yet to set a date for the dry run's start as it continued to assess possible participating schools.