Rollout schedule announced for vaccination of minors

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Rollout schedule announced for vaccination of minors
A health worker prepares a vial of Chinese Sinovac vaccine against COVID-19 inside a movie theatre turned into a vaccination center in Taguig City suburban Manila on June 14, 2021.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — The government will conduct the inoculation of minors against COVID-19 in phases to promote vaccine confidence among parents and guardians.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said pediatric vaccination is a “very sensitive issue” in the Philippines because of the Dengvaxia controversy during the previous administration.

The Dengvaxia project of the Aquino administration made headlines after it was claimed that the vaccine may have placed at risk the health of students who never had dengue fever.

“For now, some doctors and some parents are really afraid,” Galvez said during a meeting of the government’s pandemic task force last Wednesday.

“We will do it gradually so that at least, the parents and guardians would have confidence (in the vaccines). We will adopt what we call the phased approach,” he added.

The pilot vaccination of minors will cover 12 to 17 age bracket. Minors with comorbidities or health risks will be under the A3 priority group, while the rest will be classified as priority group C.

The first phase of the pilot vaccination will start on Oct. 15 and will be done in selected hospitals. Eight hospitals in Metro Manila have registered for the rollout but hospitals from Iloilo and Cebu have also expressed interest to join the pilot.

The eight hospitals that will participate in the pilot are the National Children’s Hospital, Philippine Heart Center, Fe del Mundo Medical Center and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center in Quezon City; Pasig City Children’s Hospital; Philippine General Hospital in Manila; Makati Medical Center, and Saint Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City.

The rollout will be incremental, with those belonging to the 15 to 17 age bracket expected to be the first ones to receive the jabs.

The second phase will begin on Oct. 22 and will involve the conduct of simultaneous mini rollouts in all Metro Manila local governments.

The third phase, which will start on Oct. 29, will cover the entire capital region and nearby areas that have at least 50 percent senior citizen vaccination.

The government will then conduct vaccinations in the Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao and Caraga.

Galvez said vaccinating the young or the pediatric population would allow the start of in-person classes and would help the country achieve economic recovery.

The inoculation would also benefit the mental health of children, the vaccine czar added.

“When they (children) are just at home, many of them are suicidal, and at the same time, they experience depression. When we went to hospitals, some psychologists said patients with mental health concerns are increasing,” Galvez said.

‘Twindemic’ warning

To minimize the risk of getting severe COVID-19 and dying from the infection, doctors are pushing for flu vaccination for senior citizens.

Dr. Eduardo Poblete, St. Luke’s Medical Center Geriatric Center head, said flu immunization can provide the elderly additional protection from the so-called “twindemic.”

“We don’t have local data, but what we rely on is data from the UK. From there, they have seen patients afflicted with COVID and flu are twice at risk of being admitted at ICU and dying as compared to patients with COVID alone,” Poblete said in a virtual briefing yesterday.

He was referring to a study done in the United Kingdom in early 2020.

“Adding the burden of flu infection from that data would allow us to conclude that the twindemic is far worse than having COVID infection alone,” Poblete said.

He said senior citizens can be given flu immunization even after they have been inoculated against COVID-19 to help prevent hospitalization and flu-related complications.

However, the Senior Citizens party-list official Charles de Belen said only three of 10 Filipinos aged 60 and above are aware that they can avail themselves of free flu vaccination in barangay health centers and government hospitals.

De Belen said his group is undertaking efforts to increase awareness and encourage senior citizens to get these shots.

Vaccination advocate Dr. Lulu Bravo said senior citizens, especially indigents, should avail themselves of free immunization from government health facilities.

“Get the flu vaccine because senior citizens are at higher risk of complications from the flu infection just like COVID,” she said.

1 M Pfizer doses arrive

Over 1 million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine donated by the United States through the COVAX Facility were set to arrive last night at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 via Air Hong Kong.

The US donation, through the World Health Organization’s COVAX program, is a total of 5,575,050 vaccine doses arriving in five shipments. The latest shipment is a total of 1,003,860 Pfizer doses.

Last Wednesday night, US embassy and Department of Health (DOH) officials welcomed the arrival of 939,510 Pfizer doses; and last Sunday, 1,813,500 doses were flown in by National Air Cargo Airlines. – Mayen Jaymalin, Rudy Santos

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