Govt considering Covid vaccination of children

A nurse wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) for protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) gives routine vaccines to a baby held by his mother in a local health center in Manila, Philippines January 27, 2021. Picture taken January 27, 2021. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

As coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines continue to arrive in the country, the chief implementer of the National Task Force Against Covid-19 said they are now studying the inclusion of children in the government’s vaccination program.

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. issued the remark on Sunday in response to reports that there were children with complicated cases of coronavirus admitted at the pediatric Covid-19 ward of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

“We have reported this to the President (Rodrigo Duterte) during our talk to the people and we have stated that during the Delta attack in India, more than 9,000 in a village were children. We proposed to the NITAG (interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group) we have to include children as soon as possible considering they will also be vulnerable, particularly children with comorbidities. We have seen in PGH the three critical there, dalawa doon may (two of them have) comorbidities. Very vulnerable and bata kasi nakikita natin hindi pa ganun kalakas kanilang resistensya (their resistance is not yet that strong) in terms of pulmonary diseases,” Galvez told reporters on the sidelines of the arrival of 326,400 doses of Moderna vaccine at Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City.

“We are trying to look and maybe by the end of September or October, we will open up pediatrics and adolescent vaccination. Meron kami nine-negotiate na (We are negotiating for) more or less 26 million doses intended for our pediatrics vaccination,” he added.

Galvez said the age group they are eyeing for inclusion in the vaccination program covers 12 to 17 years.

“Initially ang nakita natin we will start from 12 to 17. Sa ngayon ang priority population is 18 and above. Pfizer applied for EUA (emergency use authorization) with our Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and FDA already approved it, and Sinovac has already applied, most likely it will be approved by FDA. Three years and above ang Sinovac. Once we have enough supply of those vaccines, we can start for as long as the experts will allow their use for the 12 years and above and maybe three years and above,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Galvez said of the newly arrived Moderna vaccines, 224,400 doses are for the government while the remaining 102,000 doses are for port operator International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI).

“Ang bibigyan nito ay ang areas na mayroong surge dito sa Metro Manila considering na ang Moderna nakita natin limited lang ang volumes ngayon. Ang concentration to fight the variant will be in NCR and other surge areas (We will distribute it in areas experiencing a surge here in Metro Manila considering that we have a limited volume of Moderna. The concentration to fight the variant will be in the National Capital Region and other surge areas),” he said.

Galvez also said the remaining unvaccinated medical front-liners (A1), senior citizens (A2), and persons with comorbidities (A3) will be the priority groups of the newly delivered vaccines.

In Metro Manila, which is currently under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), Galvez said 90,000 doses of Moderna will be allocated to reach the target of 4 million jabs to ramp up the inoculation program during the lockdown period from Aug. 6-20.

“Once we receive two doses, it has a tremendous effect on the variants. Even on the Delta variant, it prevents severe and critical cases, and even death. Malaki ang impact ng vaccination natin (Our vaccination has a big impact). It really saves lives and the vaccines can beat all the variants,” Galvez said.

He noted that as of Aug. 8, the total number of vaccine doses administered in the country has reached 24,174,821, adding that some 13 million Filipinos already received the first dose while 11 million are already fully vaccinated.

Galvez also said 14.7 million more doses of Covid-19 vaccines are expected to be delivered to the country this month.

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