MANILA (UPDATE)—The Philippines aims to vaccinate at least 80 percent of 12 million children against COVID-19 before yearend, the Department of Health said Thursday as it targets to inoculate more elderly and build confidence in the resumption of in-person classes.
Government will expand its pediatric vaccinations to include all children aged 12 to 17 on November 3. It initially rolled out the program to cover children with health risks in Metro Manila on October 15, which is set to expand to other regions on Friday.
The expansion of the pediatric vaccination aims to encourage other family members to get vaccinated and boost confidence in the resumption of in-person classes, said DOH Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje.
Some 4.6 million or 56.22 percent of senior citizens have been fully inoculated against COVID-19, while 3.79 million or 45.91 percent have received their first dose, she said.
"We are hoping that with children's vaccination ay i-increase ang pagbabakuna ng ating mga lolo, mga lola, mga A2 (elderly). Initially may feeling na 'Wag na kami mga anak na lang namin,'" she told reporters.
(We are hoping that with children's vaccination, the inoculation of the elderly will also increase. Initially, there was a feeling to vaccinate children first instead of them.)
"Now that the children are okay, baka maengganyo rin ang buong pamilya magpabakuna (maybe the whole family will be encouraged to get vaccinated)."
She added, "Minamadali na po ang pagbubukas ng face-to-face classes. Ang 12 to 17 (years old) ay part of K-12 and college, it will also build confidence na pwede nang mag-face-to-face classes ang mga nabakunahan na bata."
(We're hastening the resumption of face-to-face classes. Children aged 12 to 17 are in K-12 and college, it will also build confidence that vaccinated children can attend face-to-face classes.)
The immunization program will kick off in the capital region on Nov. 3 but other regions that are ready may also begin, Cabotaje said. The nationwide rollout will be enforced by Nov. 5, she added.
"Based on readiness of certain areas pwede na rin magstart sa ibang areas. Kung confident na sila pwede na sila mag-start ng Nov. 3," she said.
(Certain areas can start based on their readiness. If they're confident they can also begin on Nov. 3.)
Parents' or guardian's consent and the child's assent are still needed but medical certificates will no longer be required in the vaccination of children without comorbidities, Cabotaje said.
Regular vaccination sites could be used but local governments are urged to get bigger space to accommodate both children and parents and to allot a special lane or room for vaccinated children, Cabotaje said.
"Kailangan ready sila sa response, pagkatapos ng pagbabakuna ready ang equipment na pediatric... Iba po ang pang-bata at saka adult. Otherwise they might just opt to do it in hospitals," she said.
(They should be ready to respond after vaccination, pediatric equipment should be ready... It's different from those used on adults.)
It is also up to local governments whether to accept walk-ins and to set a schedule for pediatric vaccination, she added.
Of the total target population, some 1.8 million children are from Calabarzon, 1.4 million are from Metro Manila, and 1.3 million are from Central Luzon, said Cabotaje, citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Some 23,727 children with comorbidities have been vaccinated as of 10 a.m. Thursday, according to Cabotaje. Ten adverse reactions were recorded, of which 3 were considered "serious" or led to children being brought to hospital, she said.
These included "severe allergy," while "one or two needed oxygenation," she added.
The country has so far fully vaccinated 26.5 million Filipinos against the respiratory illness, while 31 million have received an initial dose as of Wednesday, according to government data.
It aims to inoculate up to 77 people million to achieve herd immunity as more transmissible variants of the disease emerge.