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Conditions Set For Jabs On Minors

Conditions Set For Jabs On Minors
A healthcare worker administers a Sinovac COVID vaccine on a minor during the Numolux/Sinovac pediatric COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial at the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in Pretoria, South Africa on Sept. 10, 2021. The primary objective of the study is to evaluate the efficacy of two doses of CoronaVac against confirmed symptomatic cases in children aged six months to 17 years. Efficacy will also be evaluated against hospitalization and severe COVID-19 cases. The study worldwide will enroll 14,000 minors in various pediatric age groups across five countries: the Philippines, Chile, Kenya, Malaysia and South Africa. The Delta variant is driving pediatric COVID infections in many countries. Photo by AFP

Having any of 11 comorbidities may qualify a minor for COVID-19 inoculation, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday, Oct. 4.

According to DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, they have listed 11 pre-existing conditions that could make a minor eligible to receive the COVID-19 jabs.

These are medical complexity, genetic conditions, neurologic conditions, metabolic/endocrine, cardiovascular disease, obesity, HIV infection, tuberculosis, chronic respiratory disease, renal disorders and hepatobiliary.

Vergeire said those aged 12 to 17 years who have any of these conditions may register for COVID vaccination through their respective local government units (LGUs).

“We won’t change our process. It’s still through LGUs,” Vergeire told a press briefing.

However, she said instead of having the vaccination in the community, the pediatric inoculation will be done in hospitals, but still being managed by the LGUs.

Vergeire added that the “major pre-requisites” are a doctor’s clearance, informed consent from parents and informed assent from the children to be inoculated.

In a related development, National Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF) chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said over the weekend that the vaccination of minors will be pilot-tested in Metro Manila soon.

The vaccination will initially be conducted in six hospitals in the National Capital Region (NCR), including the Philippine General Hospital in Manila and the Philippine Heart Center and National Children’s Hospital in Quezon City.

“We now have enough supply for the pilot implementation. Our pilot rollout will be initially in Metro Manila. That’s doable,” Galvez said. “We want to open up our schools and by vaccinating our children, we can sustain that.” 

Galvez said that based on the NTF’s initial estimate, minors aged 12 to 17 have a target population of about 12.7 million.

He also said that with more than 2.7 million fresh vaccines which arrived over the weekend, it brought total vaccine deliveries to 77,410,640 doses as of Sunday, Oct. 3.

Galvez said that this is another milestone for the country’s vaccination drive.

“With the over 77 million vaccine doses we have received since February, we are moving closer to vaccinating half of our eligible population,” he said.

“And by the end of October, we project that the country would have received a total of 100 million vaccine doses, which could fully inoculate about 50 million Filipinos. This brings us closer to our goal of achieving herd immunity or population protection for us to safely exit from this pandemic as soon as possible,” Galvez added.

On Saturday, Oct. 2, the US government through the COVAX Facility delivered 889,200 shots of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. At dawn on Sunday, another 1,813,500 Pfizer doses arrived.

Galvez thanked the World Health Organization (WHO), COVAX Facility, the US government and UNICEF for helping to build the Philippines’ vaccine supply.

“We highly appreciate your efforts for ensuring the delivery of these vaccines despite the limited global vaccine supply and logistical challenges you face. On behalf of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and from the Filipino people, we thank you for your act of compassion and generosity,” he said.

The NTF chief said the collective effort “is another testament that nothing is impossible if we put all our acts together to combat this pandemic.”

He said that the country is expected to receive millions of procured vaccines this October. Among the vaccine brands are Pfizer, Moderna and Sinovac.

The bulk of these supplies were donated by the United States through the US-COVAX sharing agreement.

“Over the course of the next couple of days, we will see 5.5 million more doses arrive in the Philippines, both here in Manila… also down in Cebu and Davao,” US Embassy Chargé d’affaires Heather Variava said.

“The United States is so happy to be able to provide support, not just to Metro Manila but to the greater Philippines,” she added.

Galvez said the latest shipment of Pfizer vaccines will be deployed outside the NCR, such as in Regions 4-A and 3.

The succeeding deliveries of vaccines will be directly deployed to Regions 7 and 11.

More Sinovac shipments

Meanwhile, the bulk of the country’s vaccine supply is composed of Sinovac-made doses with cumulative deliveries of 41.5 million doses.

Of this supply, 39.6 million doses were procured by the national government, one million doses were donated by the Chinese government, while 900,000 doses were purchased by the City of Manila and the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

“This shipment of Sinovac will be equitably distributed to all regions, particularly where not many are vaccinated,” Galvez said. “We can give all our priority groups access to the vaccines once it arrives. Prioitizing seniors and people with comorbidities.”

WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe underscored the need to prioritize the A2 (senior citizens) and A3 (persons with comorbidities) groups.

“Although the case numbers are declining, there is still a big population of elderly and comorbid (people) who need to be protected,” Abeyasinghe pointed out.

“As we recalibrate, we recognize that we need to bring back economic activity. But the optimum use of vaccination will be to increase the coverage of priority groups,” he said. “This way, we can bring back a sustainable opening of the economy.”

Variava also welcomed the expansion of vaccine coverage in the Philippines, saying that the vaccination of adolescents in the US, which started in May, has been successful and safe.

Michelle Lang-Alli, US Agency for International Development (USAID) health director, noted that many have been spared from severe hospitalization and death because of the government’s aggressive vaccine rollout.

“With this current surge we’re having, it could have been much worse, particularly here in NCR, if we did not have the vaccines and the efforts that are being made,” Lang-Alli said. – With Jose Rodel Clapano