The Philippines is looking into the possibility of vaccinating children below 5 years old against COVID-19, an official of the National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) said Thursday.
“We will study it thoroughly. It depends on the studies abroad and if there are vaccines, although some include below 5 years,” NVOC chairperson Myrna Cabotaje said.
The United States has begun vaccinating children as young as 6 months after the US Food and Drug Administration authorized Moderna for children aged 6 months to 5 years and Pfizer for children aged 6 months to 4 years.
Cabotaje said the country’s vaccine program is already in place for the incoming administration.
However, she said there is a need to advocate the inoculation of booster shots and the primary series.
The Philippines has rolled out its booster dose vaccination for immunocompromised children aged 12 to 17 years old. Authorities said the vaccination of the rest of the age group will begin after a few days.
As of June 20, the Philippines has vaccinated more than 70 million people, or 77.85 percent of the target population.
Almost 9.5 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 and 3.3 million children aged 5 to 11 have also been fully vaccinated.
But only one out of five Filipinos eligible for a first booster or around 14.85 million, have received the needed third dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
The Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday concerned agencies must focus on encouraging more adults to get their first booster shot readily available for them.
In a Viber message to reporters, the DOH noted that the emergency use authorization (EUA) of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows a second booster or fourth dose only for health care workers, senior citizens, and immunocompromised adults.
“This is also what the HTAC (Health Technology Assessment Council) has recommended, and what the DOH through the NVOC [National Vaccination Operations Center] is implementing. A second booster or fourth dose using the currently available vaccines is meant for those who have weaker immune systems that are not providing enough protection from the first booster,” the agency said.
Health care workers are given the second booster in consideration of their high-risk exposures to patients.
The DOH urged its private sector partners to encourage their employees to get their first booster shots.
The Civil Service Commission (CSC) has urged all government officials and employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
However, the CSC said that no employee would be compelled to get vaccinated, whether directly or indirectly such as “being discriminated against in terms of tenure, promotion, training, pay and other non-discretionary benefits, or being forced to take a leave of absence chargeable to leave credits.”
Also on Thursday, the independent monitoring group OCTA Research said there is no need for the government to escalate the alert level status of the country or impose another lockdown amid the rise of COVID-19 infections.
OCTA Research fellow Ranjit Rye said what was important was that the public adhere to minimum public health standards and get their booster shots.