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Minors Start Receiving COVID Vaccines Today; Booster Shots For Health Workers Pushed

Minors Start Receiving COVID Vaccines Today; Booster Shots For Health Workers Pushed
Two young boys stay outdoors on July 20, 2021 despite the Navotas City government’s order prohibiting minors from leaving their homes as a precaution against COVID-19. Photo by Ernie Peñaredondo, The Philippine STAR

The vaccination of children aged 12 to 17 against COVID-19 begins today, Oct. 15, with the initial rollout giving priority to minors with comorbidities, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

“The vaccination is not for minors in general, only those with comorbidities,” Duque stressed in a television interview on Thursday, Oct. 14.

He noted that the Department of Health (DOH) had previously identified health conditions to be covered under the immunization program as well as those qualified for vaccination based on their medical records, with eight government hospitals in Metro Manila participating in the initial rollout.

Based on DOH estimates, there are 12.7 million children belonging to the 12 to 17 age bracket. Those with comorbidities, the DOH said, comprised about 10% of the population belonging to the age group.

Informed consent from parents or guardians of the children shall be presented prior to the vaccination. They will also be informed of both benefits and likely side effects of the vaccines.

After the vaccination, the children will be closely monitored for possible side effects and how they will respond to the COVID vaccines.

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire assured the public that the COVID-19 vaccines with emergency use authority (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration are safe and effective even for children.

Vergeire said the government is rolling out the pediatric vaccination program by phase to adequately monitor the vaccine recipients and operations in this pilot run.

"Subsequently, this will improve and further refine implementation to other hospitals or vaccine sites," Vergeire said in a statement.

The first phase will be conducted in the eight hospitals in the National Capital Region identified by the DOH and COVID-19 National Vaccination Operations Center or NVOC.

She said several town hall meetings with concerned stakeholders were held to disseminate the operational guidelines and other pertinent preparations that the DOH and implementing sites are undertaking for the pilot roll-out.

The DOH encourages parents and guardians who will be accompanying the eligible children to get vaccinated as well and continue adherence to minimum public health standards.

Although vaccination for minors has started, DOH will continue prioritizing vaccination of senior citizens and people with underlying conditions.

Boosters for HCWs

With the country’s vaccine supply being enough to expand the program to minors, the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) urged the government to consider extending booster shots to healthcare workers (HCWs).

“All of us say we want to receive a booster shot. Since vaccination is already made available to those aged 12 to 17, I think right now we could already think about booster doses,” Dr. Maricar Limpin, PCP president, told “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News Wednesday night, Oct. 13.

Limpin said the World Health Organization (WHO) has already recommended booster shots for those who received Sinovac and Sinopharm and are at high risk such as the elderly and those with comorbidities.

The majority of HCWs, Limpin said, have received Sinovac while others were vaccinated with AstraZeneca.

Duque had said he would recommend giving booster shots of HCWs. “But our experts are saying we have to ensure that the bigger percentage of the population must receiver primary series of vaccines,” he said.

At this time, Duque said only about 30% of the population are fully vaccinated.

If booster shots will be provided, he said the vaccine supplies will be rechanneled and possibly deprive the elderly and those with comorbidities who need it most.

TV learning

Meanwhile, the Department of Education (DepEd) is looking to expand its television learning platform as students last school year reached almost 14 million.

DepEd Undersecrertary Alain Pascua said DepEd TV should be expanded to accommodate different learning styles of learners as part of the blended learning modality amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We emphasize the need to maximize the use of DepEd TV as part of the learning delivery modalities under the Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan as this is one of the most widely available modalities for distance learning,” she said in a statement.

A total of 13.91 million learners accessed DepEd TV, which is designed with interactive components to attain targeted competencies for learning.

The department released Joint Memorandum No. 002 this year to encourage all regional and division personnel to actively promote the use of DepEd TV and DepEd Radio alongside other distance learning modalities to maximize learning experience for students.

DepEd TV episodes follow a weekly plan that is guided by Most Essential Learning Competencies for students. – With Romina Cabrera