The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday urged government officials to be good models for the public and get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire issued the statement when asked about the policy of the DOH on government workers who want to wait to get vaccinated with their preferred brands.
“We just want to urge all government officials, let us try to be models so the public will follow,” Vergeire said in Filipino on ANC.
“Let us show confidence in our vaccines and let us show that these are weapons to protect the population,” she said.
Vergeire said holding off on vaccination would be unfair for other government workers who have already complied with the protocols of the government.
She also stressed that all vaccines are safe and effective.
The DOH remarks come on the heels of an admission by Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta that she has not been vaccinated against COVID-19 because she was waiting for a “protein-based vaccine.”
But Health Secretary Francisco Duque III appealed to Acosta to get vaccinated because “she’s almost a senior citizen” and should get protection from COVID-19.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Acosta should be barred from going to work until she is vaccinated because she was putting the life, health and safety of her coworkers in danger.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) said the government should schedule National COVID-19 Vaccination Days for children aged 5 to11.
PMA president Dr. Benito Atienza issued the statement after the government said that vaccination of children in that age bracket would begin on Feb. 4.
“We had a town hall meeting with the Health department and health workers, including doctors, in Southern Tagalong yesterday. We are hoping that there will be National Vaccination Days for this age group so the parents can accompany their children in vaccination centers,” Atienza said at an online briefing.
“We really need more spacious vaccination centers for these children because children of this age group have the tendency to have a short attention span. It would be best if there is a video they can watch while they wait for their turn,” he added.
Atienza also said an intensified information drive on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines is also needed to convince parents and guardians to have the children vaccinated.
“We should strengthen the information drive because there are parents who are still hesitant to have their children vaccinated,” he said.
Atienza said such COVID-19 National Vaccination Days should be scheduled on weekends so as not to run in conflict with the work schedule of the parents or guardians.
There are about 12 million to 13 million Filipino children aged 5 to 11, Atienza said.
The DOH on Wednesday said 58 percent of minors aged 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Philippines began administering vaccines to the 12-17 age group in October, beginning with those suffering from underlying medical conditions.
The government aims to vaccinate 10.7 million in this age group.
As of Tuesday, the Philippines has fully vaccinated 57.8 million people, while 59.98 million others have received an initial dose, and 6.68 million booster shots have been administered, the DOH said.
Dr. Mary Ann Bunyi, president of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines, said children with preexisting illnesses are at a higher risk for severe COVID-19 disease.
“Most cases have been mild. But some patients have turned severe with critical manifestations. Some have developed complications like multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MISC-C),” she told reporters in a virtual forum Wednesday.
The DOH has recorded 396,730 virus cases among those aged 19 and below, said Bunyi, who is also a member of the national immunization technical advisory group for COVID-19 vaccination.
The most common symptoms were fever and cough, followed by shortness of breath, sore throat, diarrhea, myalgia, fatigue, rhinorrhea, vomiting, nasal congestion, conjunctivitis, rash, and loss of sense of smell and taste, the DOH said.
Aside from preventing COVID-19 infection among children, the vaccines could provide” safer in-house learning” and protect from further disruption of classes, Bunyi said.
It can also reduce the likelihood of viral transmission by children, she added.