The government will start administering formulated COVID-19 vaccines to children aged 5 to 11 years old by Feb. 4, National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 chief implementer, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., said Monday night.
“We are already prepared for the vaccination of 5 to 11 years old,” Galvez, also the vaccine czar, reported during President Rodrigo Duterte’s prerecorded Talk to the People.
Galvez said the government will issue guidance this week, with town hall meetings to be conducted from Jan. 24 to 28, for the rollout of the pediatric vaccination under the 5-11 years old age bracket.
The formulated low-dosing Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to be used for the younger population is expected to arrive on Feb. 2, he added.
Galvez said the pediatric vaccination for this age bracket will be rolled out in two phases.
A pilot run will be conducted in one hospital-based and one local government unit (LGU)-based vaccination site per city, within the National Capital Region (NCR), for the first phase.
After a week, it will be expanded to the rest of Metro Manila’s inoculation sites and other regions, for the second phase.
“We will open the hospital and non-hospital vaccination site and we will expand the sites further to other regions after one week,” Galvez said.
The latest data from the NTF showed that 7,246,430 adolescents, or children aged 12 to 17 years, are now fully protected against the disease.
The government expects to vaccinate more than 39.41 million aged from zero to 17 years old.
Philippine Medical Association (PMA) president Benny Atienza said they are proposing to the government to hold a National Day of Vaccination for children aged 5-11.
To date, he estimated about 20 million to 30 million children in that age range are unvaccinated.
In the 11-17 age bracket, only a few got their COVID jabs, he said, saying vaccine hesitancy among their parents were the cause.
“These parents still need to be educated that vaccines are safe,” said Atienza during an online briefing.
Atienza said the government still has a huge stock of COVID-19 vaccines.
Meanwhile, the executive director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, Dr. Lulu Bravo, said people should get their COVID-19 booster shots, even though some studies have shown that getting the Omicron variant of the coronavirus could protect a person from other variants.
Speaking in an online media forum sponsored by Samahang Plaridel, Bravo said the highly transmissible Omicron is the key towards being protected against all other coronavirus variants.
“It is the way to the exit for this pandemic but do not be complacent,” she said.
Bravo noted that after six months, the efficacy of the vaccines, regardless of the brand, was found to be low.
“But when you get a third shot or booster, the efficacy would increase by at least 90 percent. If you get infected with COVID-19, hospitalization will not likely be needed,” she added.
A third dose of the vaccines, she said, would mark an increase in antibodies and reduce the severity of the disease.
Bravo blamed vaccine hesitancy caused by misinformation spread on the internet for the relatively low number of people with booster shots.
“Go to responsible websites and listen to experts… Follow the real experts, not the quack, not those who will get you scared, not those who will give you horrific stories about vaccines.,” she said.
The Palace on Tuesday said President Duterte had underscored the need for booster shots.
The statement came after an old video of the chief executive saying that two doses of COVID-19 vaccine were enough had resurfaced on social media.
Cabinet Secretary and acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said the video was recorded back on Sept. 20, 2021, at a time when the administration of booster shots was not yet approved in the country.
The President had stressed the importance of booster shots in December 2021, Nograles said.