NTF mulls COVID-19 vaccination of children by September

Published August 9, 2021, 12:25 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

Individuals age 12 to 17 years old may soon be allowed to get coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine in the country to counter the potentially devastating effects of the highly transmissible Delta variant on children.

Children line up during a feeding program initiated by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Ormoc City, Leyte on May 27, 2021. (Photo courtesy of the PCG)

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., vaccine czar and chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, said that they have already proposed the inoculation of the pediatric sector to the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG), an advisory committee on pandemic vaccination, by the end of September or early October.

“We proposed to the NITAG that we have to include children [in the vaccination program] as soon as possible considering they will also be vulnerable, particularly children with co-morbidities,” Galvez said during the arrival of 326,400 doses of Moderna jabs on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 8.

The national vaccination program is currently available to individuals age 18 years old and above.

But with the evolving nature of COVID-19, he said the Delta variant appeared to be infectious and deadlier even among the children unlike the original strain of COVID-19 that originated in Wuhan, China.

He cited the surge of cases due to Delta variant in India, where it is believed to have originated, which affected more than 9,000 children in a single village.

He said that two out of three COVID-afflicted children admitted at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) have co-morbidities.

“Very vulnerable ang mga bata kasi nakikita natin hindi pa ganoon kalakas ang kanilang resistance (Children are very vulnerable because they don’t have strong resistance) say in terms of pulmonary diseases. We are trying to look na maybe by end of September or October we will open up pediatrics and adolescent vaccination,” Galvez said.

In fact, COVID-19 cases among children age below 17 years old rose by 29.59 percent, accoridng to the Department of Health (DOH). It said 10,358 cases were recorded from July 21 to August 3 which saw an alarming rise from the 7,993 cases tallied from July 7 to 20.

To sustain the planned pediatric vaccination, Galvez said the NTF is now looking for an additional supply of 26 million doses of vaccines from various sources. This is on top of the 164 million doses that were secured by the national government this year through various procurements, the global initiative COVAX facility, and donations from other countries.

“Initially, ang nakita natin we will start from 12 to 17. Sa ngayon ang priority population is 18 and above (Initially, we see that we can start [the pediatric vaccination] from 12 to 17 [years old]. Right now, the priority population is 18 [years old] and above),” Galvez said.

The vaccine czar revealed that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved last month the application of American vaccine manufacturer, Pfizer, for an emergency use authorization (EUA) of its vaccine on individuals age 12 to 15.

He added that Chinese manufacturer Sinovac also applied for an EUA of its CoronaVac vaccine on three years old and above but the FDA has yet to decide on it.

“Most likely it will be approved by the FDA,” he said.

“Once we have enough supply of those vaccines, we can start [the pediatric vaccination] for as long as the experts allow to use these vacicnes for the 12 years and above and maybe three years and above,” he stressed.

As of August 8, the country has administered 24,174,821 doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Around 13 million Filipinos have received their first dose while more than 11.2 million others were fully vacccinated.