MANILA - The second phase of the country's pediatric COVID-19 vaccination will begin on Friday, exactly a week since the inoculation rollout was expanded.
Under the second phase, which still covers individuals aged 12 to 17 years old with health risks, each local government unit (LGU) in Metro Manila has the go signal to implement the rollout in selected sites, mostly in hospitals.
“Pwede nilang bakunahan ‘yung hindi lang pasyente nila. Patients coming from other hospitals and even from the community na mayroong comorbidity,” DOH-NCR Director Gloria Balboa said.
“Binigyan lang muna namin sila ng tig-one tray ng Pfizer vaccine. One tray is 1,170 (doses),” she added.
But in Muntinlupa City, eligible minors will have to wait until Monday.
“The facility is ready. We’re just waiting for the masterlist and the vaccine… Mahirap namang i-announce ko tomorrow eh hindi ko pa siya nagkikita,” Ospital ng Muntinlupa Medical Director Dr. Edwin Dimatatac said.
Children scheduled to be vaccinated will need to bring an ID and medical certificate as proof of their comorbidity.
Their parents or guardians should also carry an ID and proof of relationship with the vaccine recipient.
The capital region targets to inoculate around 144,000 minors in the said sector.
Of the over 4,600 children who received their first shot, only 5 reported experiencing adverse event following immunization. They were immediately managed, according to the agency.
Some localities, meanwhile, urged the government to further expand the vaccination rollout even to teens with no comorbidity, now that the country has millions of available COVID-19 vaccine shots.
“Ginawa na nating Alert Level 3, kung saan pinapayagan na rin ang intra, interzonal travel for all ages, kaya kailangan na rin ng mga kabataan ang proteksyon sa bakuna. Makakatulong din bilang preparasyon natin sa pagbubukas ng klase sa face to face classes muna,” Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro said.
But Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said it is important to observe first the safety of the vaccines in the pediatric sector, which was why they are vaccinating select individuals for now.
“We have to consider safety of the vaccines in so far as the pediatric age groups is concerned. That’s why we have decided as a matter of policy to commence vaccination from 12 to 17 years of age of children with comorbidities. After that, we’ll open na to the general pediatric population," Duque explained.
Vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr., meanwhile, said they are trying to convince the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) in further opening the inoculation rollout.
Galvez this week said authorities are raising the immunization target to 1.5 million administered shots daily, in order to achieve the 70 million fully vaccinated individuals by yearend.
“We are trying to convince the [National Immunization Technical Advisory Group] to make this more accelerated. In opening up our vaccination for children, we can sustain and achieve ‘yung 1.5 million [jabs] per day," said Galvez.
"Very eager na ‘yung families. The parents are really willing to have their children vaccinated. Even doon sa regional hubs natin they are more than willing to vaccinate already 12 and above,” he added.
An infectious disease specialist, meanwhile, recommended the use of mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna as third dose for senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals fully vaccinated with Sinovac.
“There are data based on immunogenecity studies that for those fully vaccinated with Sinovac, and they got a third dose of Sinovac, and then comparing it to the third dose of Pfizer or even a Moderna, you really have higher neutralizing antibody. But it doesn’t also mean that a third dose of Sinovac doesn’t work,” according to Dr. Rontgene Solante.
New infections in the country fell below the 5,000-mark for the past three days. The Philippines logged its first confirmed COVID-19 case on Jan. 30 last year in a Chinese woman who arrived from Wuhan.
The government has so far fully vaccinated 24.7 million individuals, while 28.6 million have received their first dose. The vaccine rollout started March 1 this year.