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MANILA, Philippines – As the Philippines entered year 3 of battling the coronavirus pandemic, the government on Monday, February 7, started vaccinating children aged 5 to 11 against the deadly virus.
The vaccination was pushed back from its initial schedule on Friday, February 4, due to “logistical challenges.” The initial 780,000 doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer-BioNTech arrived on Friday night only.
Pfizer vaccine is being used for the vaccination as this is the only shot that has received emergency use approval for kids aged 5 to 11 years from the Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration. The Pfizer vaccine for them has a lower dosage and lower concentration than those given to youths aged 12 to 17.
The country began vaccinating 12- to 17-year-olds in October 2021.
The vaccination of kids aged 5 to 11 started in six sites in Metro Manila – the Philippine Heart Center, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, National Children’s Hospital, Manila Zoo, SM North Edsa (Skydome), and the Fil Oil Gym in San Juan City. The vaccination will be expanded to Central Luzon and Calabarzon on Tuesday, February 8.
Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje, who also heads the Philippines’ National Vaccine Operation Center, said the government aims to inoculate 15.5 million children aged 5 to 11 in the country.
On Friday, the DOH said that 69.2% of the reported COVID-19 cases among the pediatric group (those 17 years old and below) in January 2022 were children aged 0 to 11.
“The contribution of children 0 to 11 years old in the total pediatric cases is higher during the Omicron wave compared to Delta. Cases among the 0-11 age group comprised an average of 56% of the total pediatric cases in September and this climbed up to 69.2% in January,” the DOH said.
The recent surge in cases driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant saw infections increase among all age groups – with 18- to 59-year-olds seeing the biggest climb, followed by kids aged less than 5, and then 5- to 11-year-olds.
Though cases have been declining for the past days, daily infections are still higher than what’s being reported before the Omicron surge happened. The Philippines is now under “moderate risk” case classification. The country was placed under “critical risk” status on January 10 due to rising COVID-19 cases. On January 15, it saw its highest daily COVID-19 cases at 39,004.
Safe and effective
In a statement on Friday, pediatricians assured parents that COVID-19 vaccines have been proven safe and effective for kids aged 5 to 11, as they expressed their support for the government’s vaccination drive.
“We are glad that as a nation, we are able to extend the protection given to adults and adolescents to now include children as young as 5 years old. Parents and guardians of children aged 5–11 years are enjoined to discuss vaccination with their healthcare provider and obtain their information from reputable sources with the right experience and expertise,” the Philippine Pediatric Society and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of
the Philippines said in a joint statement.
Citing a study from the New England Journal of Medicine, they said that the Pfizer vaccine was found to be safe and efficacious, having prevented 90.9% of symptomatic COVID-19. They noted that “no serious adverse events nor deaths were found related to the vaccination.”
The vaccination of kids is welcome news as the Department of Education (DepEd) plans to eventually transition to limited face-to-face classes by school year 2022 to 2023. The country has been using the distance learning system since the pandemic began in 2020. (READ: 5 ways the Philippines can prepare its schools for health crises in 2022)
The Philippines joins a number of countries, including the United States and Singapore, that have already started vaccinating kids aged 5 to 11.
The vaccination pushed through despite a petition filed by two parents before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to stop the impending COVID-19 vaccination for children. They contested a clause in the DOH rule that grants the government the power to give its consent for a minor willing to get vaccinated. – Rappler.com