The race is on

The COVID-19 vaccine race to protect as many among the 110 million people of the Philippines is on, with health authorities confirming that pediatric vaccination will start among 12- to 17-year-olds with comorbidities as part of Priority group A3 in mid-October.

But only those with comorbidities—those without are not covered by the Department of Health policy.

The point is the Philippines is raising its vaccination coverage to cover 90 percent—that’s nearly 82 million—of the country’s population, after the highly transmissible Delta variant ramped up herd immunity thresholds for the coronavirus disease.

Only a month back, the country’s vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. told the House of Representatives that the target had become higher than the original 70 percent officials had their sights on—the new target of 90 percent coverage to be realistically attained in 2022 at the earliest.

The rationale has been that most of the health experts in the United States and those at home say the concept of herd immunity can only be realized by increasing the target population coverage by 80 to 90 percent.

There is indeed a need to protect as wide as possible segments of the population to enable the authorities to open up doors for the resumption of economic activities, which have been hobbled to a screech since the pandemic breathed down the population in March last year.

But there is also a need to get substantial feedback on the limited face-to-face classes in pilot schools in designated areas for health authorities to appreciate and where they can proceed in mapping out subsequent measures to implement.

We understand there will be expansion beyond this 12-17 age group with comorbidities once adequate coverage of the A2 priority group or senior citizens has been achieved nationwide and vaccine supply has become sufficient to include children.

The DOH has emphasized the need for a careful and planned rollout of vaccines for children, given that the risks of contracting severe COVID-19 infection or dying from COVID-19 is significantly lower for healthy children.

Reason dictates that the benefits from vaccination relative to the risk of a healthy child is also lower, compared to a sick child, adult or senior citizen.

The DOH guidelines ensure that (1) informed consent by the parent /guardian and child prior to vaccination will be obtained; (2) supply availability of Pfizer and Moderna, the only vaccines with emergency use authorization for 12 to 17 years old issued by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration; and more importantly, (3) equitable access to medical clearance by a physician for children with co-morbidities.

We watch the steps with the highest hopes for the country’s health and economy.

Topics: COVID-19 vaccine , Department of Health , Carlito Galvez Jr , House of Representatives
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