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1,151 minors vaccinated on first day of pilot run

Jose Rodel Clapano, Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
1,151 minors vaccinated on first day of pilot run
A health worker looks at the lists during vaccination of minors at the Pasig City General Hospital on Oct. 15, 2021. The hospital is one of the sites for the pilot run of vaccinations for children ages 12 to 17 years old.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — A total of 1,151 adolescents were inoculated against COVID-19 last Friday, prompting authorities to declare the first day of the pilot run of the government’s pediatric vaccination program a “success.”

As planned, the initial rollout of vaccines for minors aged 12 to 17 was administered on those in the 15 to 17 age bracket who have comorbidities, National Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF) chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said yesterday.

These pre-registered vaccinees have records of their pre-existing medical conditions with the eight government hospitals in Metro Manila participating in the pilot run, as explained earlier by the Department of Health (DOH).

At a public briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire described the initial rollout as “successful.”

“According to reports, there were no untoward, adverse reactions among the children vaccinated,” she said.

Galvez said the rollout for this sector will be purely based on registration, noting the NTF’s projections that about 1.2 million adolescents with comorbidities are qualified to take jab, around 144,123 of whom are from the National Capital Region (NCR).

Among the underlying conditions listed by the DOH are “medical complexity, genetic conditions, neurologic conditions, metabolic/endocrine, cardiovascular disease, obesity, HIV infection, tuberculosis, chronic respiratory disease, renal disorders and hepatobiliary disease and immunocompromised due to disease or treatment.”

Last Friday, Galvez was joined by Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) chairman and DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III and Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian in overseeing the vaccine rollout at the National Children’s Hospital in Quezon City.

Simultaneous launches were also conducted at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, the Fe Del Mundo Medical Center and Philippine Heart Center, also in Quezon City, as well as at the Pasig City Children’s Hospital, the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City and the Makati Medical Center.

Galvez reiterated that the program to vaccinate children with comorbidities or those under the Pediatric A3 category will be conducted in “a safe, phased, sequential and monitored” manner in line with the new recalibrated vaccination plan.

Apart from the goal of attaining herd immunity, the country’s vaccine czar said: “This occasion is a major development in our vaccination program because if we carry this out successfully, as we have previously done with our priority groups, we shall be able to continue the expansion of our face-to-face classes.”

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture, said he supported the move to count the Philippines among the 28 countries now inoculating their younger population.

“This is the only way for us to get back to face-to-face classes. And this is the only way to build confidence among our parents who are still afraid,” he said.

For his part, Duque paid tribute to health care workers for the “sense of sacrifice” and emphasized the importance of their contribution in vaccinating the population to arrest the spread and possible mutation of the coronavirus.

“Small it might be for our pediatric age group, but we’ll never know because this virus has the potential for mutations. And these mutations can give rise to variants. And these variants can cause extreme problems to all of us,” Duque said.

On Oct. 22, the vaccine rollout for minors will be expanded to all 17 local government units (LGUs) in the NCR and by Nov. 5, the rollout will extend to regional areas where 50 percent of their A2 (senior citizen) group has been fully vaccinated.

The challenge now, according to Galvez, rests heavily on LGUs to boost the registration and inoculation numbers in their areas as the country now has a stable supply of vaccines against COVID-19.

Speaking at yesterday’s Laging Handa briefing, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Benhur Abalos gave his assurance that all LGUs in the capital region are ready for the rollout of vaccines for minors aged 12 to 17.

“We already conducted pre-registration before. Those who would inoculate, the doctors, they are all ready. All that we will be waiting for are vaccines,” Abalos said in Filipino.

The Philippines has so far received 90.61 million doses of vaccines since February, of which 51.48 million doses have been administered as of Oct. 14.

In Metro Manila, about 80 percent of the eligible population of 9.8 million are fully vaccinated, Abalos said.

This brings the total number of fully vaccinated individuals in the country to 23.98 million or 31.09 percent of the target population.

“Our challenge to LGUs: Fast track the vaccination because we have enough supply. Let’s do this together. Together, let’s make our Christmas prosperous, safe and joyful this 2021,” Galvez said. – Ralph Edwin Villanueva

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