MANILA – The government's vaccine cluster is mulling the start of pediatric vaccination by the fourth quarter of this year.
Assistant Secretary Wilben Mayor, head of the National Task Force Against Covid-19 (NTF) sub-task force on current operations, said the NTF has already recommended to the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) the expansion of the vaccination program to children within the last quarter of 2021.
“On the projection, the government, through the vvaccine cluster, has already been eyeing for the inoculation of our children especially from ages 12 to 17,” Mayor, who represented vaccine czar and NTF head Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., said during a Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture hearing on Wednesday.
The vaccination of the proposed age group, Mayor said, will be highly dependent on the decision of the government’s vaccine expert panel, as well as the availability of the Covid-19 vaccines in the global market.
“Nevertheless, there is already an action on the part of the vaccine cluster to ensure a steady supply of vaccines for September this year,” he said.
"They have already signed the purchase order for 10 million doses of Sinovac [and] the increase of delivery of Pfizer -- more or less five million doses, and Moderna, three million doses," he added.
The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier recommended the vaccination of minors in areas with high risks of community transmission, adding that immunizing children will have to depend on the vaccine supply.
WHO emphasized the need to prioritize vulnerable sectors such as senior citizens and persons with comorbidities in the Covid-19 vaccination program.
Apart from the pediatric vaccination, the preparedness of basic education institutions to open safe schools and to conduct face-to-face classes for the Academic Year 2021-2022 was also discussed during the hearing, led by committee chair Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.
“Admittedly, the school year 2020-2021 was a bit of a challenge because we did not have enough experience and training to go under a full distance learning scheme,” Gatchalian said.
The senator has been pushing for the inoculation of students that will allow traditional classes in areas with low-risks of Covid-19 infection.