PH a step closer to vaccinating 5 to 11 year old kids vs COVID-19 as jabs arrive

The first batch of Pfizer coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine for children ages five to 11 years old finally arrived in the country on Friday night, Feb. 4, setting the stage for the kickoff of the highly anticipated yet contested vaccination program.

A total of 780,000 doses of reformulated Pfizer vaccine for children ages five to 11 years old arrive at NAIA Terminal 3 on Feb. 4, 2022. (Courtesy of NTF Against COVID-19).

The shipment containing 780,000 doses of reformulated Pfizer vaccine for children arrived around 9 p.m. at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3. The vaccines were procured by the national government through the funding from the World Bank.

In total, the government procured 30 million reformulated Pfizer jabs for five to 11 kids.

Around 7.5 million doses will arrive in the first quarter while another 7.5 million doses will be transported in the second quarter. The remaining doses are expected to be delivered within the year.

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., vaccine czar and chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, said the delivery of the first batch of vaccines will enable the pediatric vaccination of children ages five to 11 on Monday, Feb. 7.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. (Screenshot from PTV livestream)

“With the arrival of these vaccines, masaya po naming ibinabalita na matutuloy na po ang ating rollout sa pagbabakuna para sa batang edad lima hanggang onse sa Lunes (Feb. 7) (With the arrival of these vaccines, we are happy to report that the rollout of the vaccination for children ages five to 11 will finally happen on Monday),” Galvez said.

The vaccine czar said that the success of the pediatric vaccination will allow the government to remove the restrictions imposed on children and bring back face-to-face classes.

“Napakaemotional nito para sa atin. Sinasabi natin may kagat ito sa puso dahil nakikita natin pwede na magsama-sama ang pamilya sa paglabas (This is very emotional for us. This tugs at my heartstrings because we can now allow families to go out of their homes together),” Galvez said.

“Pangalawa ang ating mga kabataan ay hindi na natin irerestrict at sila ay pwede na maglaro at magkaroon ng face to face learning. Kailangang-kailangan po natin ito para mapangalagaan natin ang social development ng ating next generation (Secondly, our children will no longer be restricted from going out and they can now play and attend face to face learning. We areally need this to protect the social development of our next generation),” he added.

The national government will rollout the pediatric vaccination of children ages five to 11 years old on Feb. 7 in six vaccination sites in Metro Manila. It will then be expanded to the other regions on Feb. 14.

However, the rollout was challenged by two parents who filed a petition to stop the pediatric vaccination.

Aided by the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), complainants Dominic Almelor, a former broadcast journalist, and a certain Girlie Samonte, whose child allegedly got hospitalized after being inoculated with anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, filed the petition before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) last Thursday.

But Galvez expressed confidence that the judges will favor the government over the complainants.

“We are confident many parents will overwhelmingly support us. Nakita natin malaki po ang pakinabang ng bakuna dito sa pandemya (We have seen that the vaccine has a big benefit to us as we fight this pandemic). We cannot go out to the new normal without the vaccine. Nakikita namin na (We think that) it will proceed,” he said.

US situation

Meanwhile, Galvez was joined by United States Embassy Charge d’ Affaires Heather Variava and US Embassy acting deputy chief of mission David Gamble during the arrival ceremony.

“This is so important for the Philippines and we are so delighted that the very safe and effective US Pfizer vaccine for children has made it to the Philippines,” Variava said.

“This will make such a difference in the lives of all families in the Philippines. It will allow children to eventually get back to face to face learning. It will allow them to play with their friends and do important socializing,” she added.

Around six million children ages five to 11 years old have already been fully vaccinated in the United States while eight million others have received at least one dose, according to Gamble.

Gamble said his two children that are within the said age bracket have already been fully vaccinated.

“Right from me as a parent, I could tell you that the vaccines are safe. They have taken two shots, they are doing well, and they are so excited to go back to in-person learning. I urge all the Filipinos, as the rest of these 15 million doses come in, to bring your children out. Get vaccinated and let’s get this country back open,” Gamble said.