Philippines allows Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine on adolescents aged 12 to 15, amending the previous emergency use authorization (EUA) that allowed the use of the vaccine for those aged 16 and above.

In a statement sent to reporters, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that due to the limited supply of the vaccine, the country's vaccination strategy to prioritize the vulnerable population remains.

The health spokesperson added that the "general consensus" of the experts was "to revisit pediatric and adolescent vaccination once our vaccine supply has stabilized."

Pfizer had applied last May 20 for the change to the EUA. This was after the United States FDA had approved Pfizer's request to allow the vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds in early May.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was the first anti-COVID-19 jab to be granted an EUA in the Philippines. The country has received only over 193,000 doses so far, but some two million more doses from the COVAX Facility are expected to arrive in June.

The Philippine government is in talks to sign a deal with Pfizer for the purchase of 40 million doses.

Why this matters

This development comes as the country prepares for the gradual return of students to face-to-face classes. Philippine schools have stopped in-person classes for over a year now, forcing students and teachers to shift to remote learning.

It would be a game-changer for government planning on when to allow in-person classes for junior high school students, who are usually aged 12 to 15.

President Rodrigo Duterte, however, ordered that all Pfizer shots from the COVAX Facility be reserved for indigent or the poorest Filipinos. The World Health Organization has urged governments to ensure that COVAX Facility vaccines go to either medical frontliners or the elderly – deemed the most vulnerable groups.

The Pfizer vaccine is the second most preferred vaccine among Filipinos, after the vaccine developed by Chinese firm Sinovac, according to a Social Weather Stations survey–

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.