Filipino children may be left out of the government's initial coronavirus immunization program since the currently available vaccines have not yet been approved for their use.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the government would prioritize Filipinos above 16 or 18 years old in the immunization drive to attain herd immunity against the new coronavirus.
The COVID vaccines, presently available in the market, can be administered to people ages 16 and older based on the information from the manufacturers, Nograles pointed out.
"We have enough funds for the (sufficient) number of Filipinos to be covered excluding (those who are) underage," he said during televised press briefing Tuesday.
"Napag-usapan kagabi kung 18 years old ba and below or 16 years old and below ang kailangan hindi na magpabakuna kasi uunahan natin for herd immunity yung above 18 or above 16. it really depends on the vaccine brand ( It was discussed last night that those 18 years old and below or 16 years old and below won't be vaccinated because we will prioritize those above 16 or 18 for herd immunity. It really depends on the vaccine brand)," he said about the meeting with President and Cabinet at the Palace Monday.
The age restriction on the use of the COVID vaccines was cited by the Palace official to explain the reason behind government's decision not to buy vaccines for all Filipinos at present.
Nograles said some coronavirus vaccines could not be given to 16 years old and below while other brands could not be administered to those ages 18 and below.
"We submit to what the vaccine manufacturers tell (and) advise (us), as well as WHO (World Health Organization)," he said. "This is not a unique practice in the Philippines. It is (a) practice that is being done worldwide. Sinusunod lang (natin ang) standards worldwide (We're just following the global standards)," he said.
Nograles said coronavirus vaccines will be acquired to benefit around 70 million Filipinos under the programs initiated by the national government, local government units, and the private sector.
Of the 70 million beneficiaries, the government has set aside P75 billion for the coronavirus vaccine acquisition for 57 million recipients. The remaining 13 million beneficiaries will receive vaccines from local government units and the private sector.
Nograles said the government was already in "advanced negotiations" for the purchase of the coronavirus vaccines.
Among the COVID vaccines secured by the government and private sector are those developed by Serum Institute of India, China's Sinovac Biotech, and AstraZeneca of the United Kingdom.
Once the vaccines get emergency use approval from local regulators, the government plans to prioritize frontline health workers, seniors, poor citizens, and uniformed personnel in the distribution of the free vaccines.