Gov't eyes face-to-face classes; to prioritize teachers, school staff for vaccination

Published September 9, 2021, 1:39 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Philippine government is looking at focusing on vaccinating teachers and school personnel this year so that face-to-face classes can be conducted in the country.

Grade school teachers of St. Francis of Assisi College meet with their pupils online. (ALI VICOY/MANILA BULLETIN)

During a hearing of the House Committee on Economic Affairs on the government’s vaccination program, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. disclosed that talks are ongoing between him, the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) about prioritizing the sector in the inoculation in light of the possibility of allowing in-person classes.

“We are already having some initial coordination, even with our congressmen and senators, on the possibility that we really focus on vaccinating our teachers and our [school] personnel so that we can have ‘yong tinatawag natin (what we call the) ring immunity,” Galvez told the House panel

Asked by Pampanga 2nd District Representative Mikey Arroyo to clarify their timeline, Galvez said they are planning to roll out the vaccinations of educators “as soon as possible.”

He said they are looking at starting it “before the end of the month or early next month”.

Galvez expressed optimism that face-to-face classes will finally be held in the country.

“Nakita po natin na meron po tayong pag-asa na magkaroon po tayo ng face-to-face [classes] (We seeing that we can have face-to-face classes),” he said.

Malacañang earlier said that President Duterte has already expressed openness to allow the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes in low risk areas of the country.

According to the DepEd, the pilot run may start from Kindergarter to Grade 3, with medical experts saying that children in this age group are the “most resilient” from COVID-19 transmission.

Children, however, have yet to be vaccinated as the current inoculation program covers individuals 18 years old and above.

So far, only two vaccines have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use of children: Pfizer vaccines for those aged 12 to 15; and the Moderna vaccine for 12- to 17-year-olds.

Meanwhile, the country’s vaccine experts are still studying the application of Sinovac for authoritization on the use of its vaccine for children aged three to 17.

Last August, Galvez said the government is mulling on inoculating children by the end of September or early October.

Having one of world’s longest lockdowns, the Philippines has had the longest closure of schools since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus last year.