Metro Manila minors with comorbidity will be first to get jabs
MANILA (UPDATE) — The COVID-19 vaccination drive will open to 12- to 17-year-olds on Oct. 15, the Department of Health said on Wednesday, as authorities raced to protect more people against more infectious coronavirus variants.
The inoculation of minors will start in Metro Manila. Those with comorbidities like heart, kidney, and respiratory problems will be prioritized, said Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje.
"Ang target natin ay masimulan ito sa Oct. 15. Uumpisahan natin sa National Capital Region kasi maganda-ganda na ‘yong kanilang coverage ng kanilang vaccination, lalong-lalo na ‘yong kanilang A2 (senior citizens)," she said in a televised public briefing.
(Our target is to start this by Oct. 15. We will start in the National Capital Region because their vaccination coverage is quite good, especially for their A2.)
"Pagkatapos ng 2 linggo, ito ‘yong tinatawag na test run, ay dadalhin na natin sa iba’t ibang rehiyon. Uumpisahan ang pagbabakuna sa may comorbities," added the official.
(After 2 weeks, this is the so-called test run, we will bring this to other regions. The vaccination will start among those with comorbities.)
Children and their parents or guardians should sign consent forms for the vaccination. The minors should also present medical certificates proving their health risks, Cabotaje said.
She said only the COVID-19 vaccines of Moderna and Pfizer have secured EUAs for 12- to 17-year-olds in the Philippines, and will be the only jabs used for this age group.
Authorities eye releasing other guidelines by next week, she added.
WIDER VACCINATIONS SOUGHT
In a statement, the DOH said expanding COVID-19 vaccinations beyond the said age group would happen once the "adequate coverage" of senior citizens is achieved and when the country gets a hold of a stable supply of virus jabs.
The agency, however, has yet to provide the list of pre-existing health conditions that would render a child eligible for vaccination by October.
Meanwhile, the move to vaccinate the said sector was due to the fact that they risk contracting COVID-19 easier compared to healthy children, according to the agency.
"Considering that the risks of contracting severe COVID-19 infection or dying from COVID-19 is significantly lower for healthy children, it follows that the benefits from vaccination relative to the risk of a healthy child is also lower, compared to a sick child, adult or senior citizen," the statement read.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire also urged eligible Filipinos to get vaccinated against the respiratory disease.
Children with existing health conditions in far-flung areas, as long as they are cleared by onsite trained physicians, would be prioritized in the rollout, Vergeire said.
"We have to ensure that children have equitable access to vaccines. Eventually, as we get more local experience, we will be able to retool our current vaccinators on the additional precautionary steps on screening and vaccine administration,” she added.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Eric Domingo earlier this month said the decision to vaccinate children, in the end, still lies with their parents.
He urged them to read the product label of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 jabs posted on their respective websites for an "informed decision."
"Hindi babakunahan ang anak ninyo hangga't di kayo pumapayag. Totoo naman na mayroon talagang adverse events, mayroong mild reactions," he earlier explained.
(Your children cannot be vaccinated unless you agree. There would be some adverse events, and there would be mild reactions.)
The government is pinning its hopes for economic recovery on its inoculation program, which started in March.
The immunization program currently covers 5 priority groups, including health workers, the elderly, people with health risks, essential workers, and indigents.
Government this week also approved COVID-19 vaccination of the general adult population by October.
The Philippines, which is fighting one of Asia's worst coronavirus outbreaks, has confirmed some 2.5 million infections, including about 37,000 deaths overall. The recent jump in cases is linked to the highly contagious Delta variant.
At least 20.8 million of the country's 109 million people have been fully vaccinated so far.