A third vaccine dose or booster shot against COVID-19 will be encouraged by the new administration, particularly to ensure the safe resumption of face-to-face classes, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Tuesday.
“With Omicron, you apparently need a third booster, a third dose. We will be encouraging that, especially for younger people because again, we have to be concerned about their return to school,” the President said in his government’s first Cabinet meeting at Malacanang.
“That’s the general policy. We will reinstitute again the vaccination drives so we could at least feel safer when the children go back to school,” Marcos added.
The Department of Health (DOH) announced Tuesday that all children aged 12 to 17, including the non-immunocompromised, can now receive their first booster shot against COVID-19 in their respective local government units.
“Yes! Children ages 12 to 17 can now get their additional/ booster doses,” the DOH said in an advisory posted on Facebook and Twitter.
Last week, the government postponed the administration of the first COVID-19 booster dose for non-immunocompromised children due to some “glitches.”
In another development, the Supreme Court has ordered that all courts under Alert Level 1 and Alert Level 2 are required to maintain a workforce of at least 50% to 75% from July 5 to July 8.
Acting on behalf of Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, the Office of the Court Administrator issued a circular on Tuesday, which was prompted by the continued increase of COVID-19 cases and to address a possible surge.
“The skeleton workforce that a branch or judicial office will maintain for the above period will be subject to the discretion or determination of the concerned executive judge, presiding judge, and/or acting/ assisting judge,” the circular said.
The court also said that judges are also allowed to conduct fully-remote videoconferencing hearings from July 4 to July 8, regardless of their location, with notice to the Office of the Court Administrator.
“Unless otherwise subsequently directed, the required workforce and in-person or face-to-face hearings… will again be observed and complied with on 11 July 2022 until further orders of the Court,” it said.
Amid the rising COVID-19 cases, Marcos on Tuesday likened the more transmissible Omicron variant to the flu, saying that it does not hit as hard as compared to other variants.
The President was asked if he had an immediate directive after the DOH on Monday reported a total of 7,398 new COVID-19 cases from June 27 to July 3, 2022.
He then pointed out that the country still has the capacity to manage the new COVID-19 infections, which now average at least 1,057 cases per day.
“If we look at where we started, we still have the capability to handle the new COVID cases,” he said, indicating the public is now learning how to live with the viral disease.
“Luckily, we should not look at the number of COVID cases in the same way as we looked at them in 2020 and 2021 because this is Omicron. Omicron is very different, it is a little contagious, but it does not hit as hard,” he added.
Marcos said Omicron-infected individuals are usually down for about two to three days only, in contrast with earlier variants such as Alpha and Delta.
“That’s like the flu. That’s like having the flu,” he said.
In December 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the Omicron variant, though causing mild symptoms, may still lead to death among immunocompromised individuals and the elderly. They said that such infections may still overwhelm hospitals in the country.
So far, the Philippines has detected 93 cases of the Omicron subvariant BA.5, 43 cases of the BA.2.12.1 subvariant, and three BA.4 cases.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said local government units who are ready to give the booster can do so when asked if all implementing units can now roll out the extra vaccination to the general population.
“It was stated in our guidelines that all LGUs/Vaccination sites who are ready to implement — trained HCWs, with appropriate vaccines, etc. — can already implement,” Vergeire said in a message to reporters.
The DOH said adolescents included among immunocompromised individuals may receive their booster dose 28 days after the primary series while those among the general population may receive theirs after five months.
“Medical centers and hospitals shall be the ones to schedule their immunocompromised pediatric patients ages 12-17 years old once they are eligible,” it said.
Immunocompromised patients without attending physicians will, meanwhile, be coordinated by community health officers and rural health units.
The DOH said adolescents among the general population may be registered through the LGU registration website.
It advised vaccinees to bring their vaccination card, document to prove the relationship with the child, valid ID or documents with photos, and a medical certificate for immunocompromised patients.
Children whose parents are abroad may get vaccinated provided that the accompanying adult presents a Special Power of Attorney or a notarized authorization letter, an affidavit with a presentation of a valid government ID, and a barangay certification.