MANILA -- COVID-19 vaccinations for the 5 to 11-year-old age group in the Philippines could begin as early as December, National Task Force for COVID-19 chief implementer Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. said Sunday.
The Philippines is set to begin a nationwide rollout of jabs for 12 to 17-year-olds in early November.
Galvez received the arrival of 2,098,980 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 Sunday evening.
The doses, which came from the COVAX facility, are the latest in over 20 million vaccines donated by the United States to the Philippines.
Galvez said the government expects Pfizer to apply with the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 jab for the youngest age group.
The United States FDA approved the emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds in late October.
“We had Pfizer already submit its dossier for its approval here. I believe it will take only a few weeks before the FDA can announce and have it approved,” Galvez said in an interview with state-run PTV.
“If Pfizer will apply for it, more or less baka December, they can approve it. Most likely, because it will take time ‘yong assessment.”
Galvez added the government will also look at the experience of the US in inoculating children.
He added they would apply the same protocol of vaccinating those with comorbidities first as it did with the 12-17 group.
The Pfizer vaccine along with Moderna’s are currently those with Philippine authorization for use in 12 to 17-year-olds.
After a pilot run in Metro Manila, vaccinations for the teenage group nationwide will begin on November 3, with the full-scale rollout on November 5, Galvez said.
“We are very happy that the result is very encouraging,” he said of the initial inoculations.
Galvez said that with the vaccination of minors underway and the continuous arrival of vaccines in the country, the government is targeting to administer 1 million or 1.5 million jabs a day, up from around 700,000 per day currently.
However, when asked if the Philippines could reach its 70% target population by the end of 2021, he replied that it might reach up to half.
“We will try to have that target but for now, realistically we can have more or less 50-60%,” he said.
As of October 31, Galvez said over 59 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the Philippines.
More than 27 million (27,293,400) have been fully vaccinated and close to 32 million have received first doses (31,896,000).
Galvez said this is over 35 percent of the government’s 77.1 million target population and nearly 25% of the country’s total population.
The vaccine czar also called on local governments to “be creative and more efficient” in distributing the vaccine.
Galvez was joined at the arrival event by U.S. Embassy chargé d'affaires Heather Variava and UNICEF deputy representative Behzad Noubary.
He said around 106 million vaccines have already been brought to the Philippines, above the government expectation of around 100 million.
Galvez added COVAX will further donate a “sizable amount” of vaccines, to be announced at the proper time.