The vaccination of children aged 12 to 17 years old against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is now being pressed by the country’s pandemic task force chief implementer to begin as early as October this year.
Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., vaccine czar and chief implementer of the National Task Force Against (NTF) COVID-19, said they decided to push for the vaccination of minors since the vaccine supply in major areas has now reached a saturation point or maximum level, and parents are hesitant to send their children to school because they are unvaccinated.
“We are now planning for the inoculation of other sectors kasi nakita natin na nagkakaroon na ng saturation point ang Metro Manila and other cities (because we have seen that the [supply in] Metro Manila and other cities have reached its saturation point). At the same time, we cannot vaccinate the 29 million population of children in one month or two months. Kailangan magsimula na tayo by October (We need to start by October),” Galvez said during the arrival of 728,910 doses of government-procured Pfizer vaccine on Thursday night, September 23.
“I believe we are ready,” he added.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the emergency use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for minors aged 12 to 15 back in June, and of Moderna for those 12 to 17 years old earlier this month.
Galvez said the issuance of an emergency use authorization (EUA) for China’s Sinovac-CoronaVac jab for minors will also be expedited.
“Maybe we will be accelerating Sinovac for the three years old and above,” he said.
Once approved by President Duterte, the pediatric inoculation is expected to prioritize children of healthcare workers and those with co-morbidities since they are the most vulnerable to the disease, Galvez said.
The decision to start the pediatric inoculation was described by Galvez as a complementary move to the start of the opening of classes last September 13.
“We can only protect the children by having them also being vaccinated,” the NTF chief implementer said.
He said there were feedbacks from parents who are hesitant to send their children to school under a face-to-face class set-up due to the risk of getting infected with COVID-19.
“They [parents] also do not feel protected kung ang kanilang mga anak ay hindi protected so nandoon ‘yong agam agam at emotional stress na hindi nila pwede pakawalan ang mga anak sa schooling (They also do not feel protected if their children are not protected so there’s hesitancy and emorional stress that they won’t allow their kids to school),” Galvez said.
He noted that if the children fail to go back to school during their formative years, it would have a “permanent impairment” to their mental health and educational development.”
Several local government units in Metro Manila have started the registration for the inoculation of children aged 12 years old and above.
Meanwhile, a total of 66,699,340 vaccine doses have already been delivered to the country as of Thursday.
More than 42 million doses have been administered nationwide: 23 million have received their first dose while 19 million have been fully vaccinated.