DepEd to defer to IATF, DOH on vaccinating students, school reopening amid threat of new COVID-19 variant

Published June 15, 2021, 5:45 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

While it supports the vaccination of students against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the resumption of limited face-to-face classes in low risk areas, the Department of Education (DepEd) will defer to decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) and the Department of Health (DOH) regarding these matters.

A health worker prepares COVID-19 vaccine. (ALI VICOY / MANILA BULLETIN)

During the Laging Handa public briefing on Tuesday, June 15, Education Secretary Leonor Briones gave updates on the school opening for School Year (SY) 2021-2022 as well as the preparations of the agency to ensure education continuity amid the pandemic.

In particular, Briones said that DepEd is closely coordinating with the IATF and DOH on the recent developments related to COVID-19 such as possible vaccination of minors and reopening the schools for in-person classes.

“Ang Department of Education, kung siya ay magbibigay ng advice sa president, ay kailangan ding komunsulta sa IATF, sa Department of Health dahil ang expertise ng mga pag-aaral nila [ay] sa itong variant na ito (The Department of Education, if it will give an advice to the president, needs to consult with the IATF and the Department of Health because they have the expertise in studying the new variant),” Briones said – referring to the Delta coronavirus variant.

Briones said that DepEd will consult the DOH and IATF matters related to the school opening – particularly the possible resumption of face-to-face classes. “Sabi ni Presidente na kailangan mabigyan siya ng assurance na ang mga bata ay safe (The President said we need to give an assurance that the children will be safe),” she explained – thus, DepEd continues to seek guidance from the DOH and IATF before as submitting school opening recommendations to the President.

Students attend face-to-face classes before the COVID-19 pandemic. (ALI VICOY / MANILA BULLETIN)

Citing initial studies, Briones noted that while children have strong resistance against COVID-19, they can be possible carriers of the virus.

However, she noted that based on the studies released by the DOH and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr., the Delta variant’s behavior remains unpredictable.

Briones said that the DOH and Galvez advised DepEd to study further the need for children to get vaccinated. “Ngayon, nakikita natin na hindi pa natin sigurado kung anong ugali nitong bagong variant na sinasabi nila na dangerous; so, makikinig tayo sa advice ng Department of Health at saka ng ating advisers sa tungkol dito sa vaccination campaign (Now, we have yet to see the behavior of this new variant which they say is dangerous so we will listen to the advice of DOH and the advisers on the vaccination campaign),” she added.