Vax drive starts for college students
MANILA, Philippines — Tertiary students may start getting their COVID-19 shots on Oct. 15 as the government begins the vaccination of the rest of the eligible population.
Officials attended on Wednesday the ceremonial vaccination of tertiary students, dubbed “Padyak! Para sa Flexible Learning, Sama-Samang Vaccination Program” at Mabalacat City College and Our Lady of Fatima University in San Fernando City, Pampanga.
The event was attended by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) Chair Prospero de Vera, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, World Health Organization country representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, and university and city government officials.
According to De Vera, the vaccination of college students is the only way the higher education system can be reopened.
He said that even without specific instructions, higher education institutions (HEIs) had ensured the vaccination of students and teachers participating in the initial face-to-face classes.
“Our universities are very responsible. We leave it to them to encourage students and faculty to be vaccinated,” De Vera said.
He said the vaccination rate in HEIs was now at 70-80 percent.
Some 800 students were vaccinated at the Mabalacat City College.
Galvez said vaccination would protect not only college students but also their teachers and their households.
He called on the students to convince their parents, siblings and friends to get jabbed, saying unvaccinated persons risked severe COVID infection and hospitalization.
Galvez also said around 100 million vaccines were expected to arrive by the end of October.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who attended the event via video conferencing, said he was glad that young adults could now get vaccinated after “a very long wait.”
“Getting vaccinated is very important. It is the key for us to return to the lives that we are used to. It is the key for the return of face-to-face classes in our colleges and universities,” Roque said, adding in jest that with physical classes resuming, students could again see their crushes and suitors in person.
Roque urged the students to take the opportunity to get vaccinated, saying many of them must have seen how the lockdowns had resulted in parents losing their jobs and families experiencing economic hardships.
12 -17 years old
The “Padyak” caravan is intended to encourage the rapid vaccination of tertiary students nationwide.
Starting Friday, minors age 12 to 17 years old who are with comorbidities (Pediatric A3 category) or are children of health-care workers may get their shots, said Ted Herbosa, National Task Force (NTF) adviser on COVID-19.
Next week, the CHEd will conduct vaccinations at the University of the Philippines Diliman for student-members of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines.
Herbosa said that by Nov. 5, local governments may start inoculating minors in the same age group.
Said De Vera: “We’ll start going around to send the message: Let’s all get vaccinated. For the students, and for the students to encourage everyone else to get vaccinated.
“If we can do this all over the country, … we can usher in a better Christmas and a better educational system by January.”
On Sept. 21, President Duterte approved the recommendation to allow more degree programs to conduct limited face-to-face classes. The additional courses include engineering and technology, hotel and restaurant management, tourism, marine engineering and marine transportation.
At the Malacañang briefing on Monday, De Vera said the CHEd was studying the possibility of reopening schools for all degree programs in areas with high vaccination rates and classified as low-risk for COVID-19.
He said the CHEd, in cooperation with school deans and experts, was prioritizing degree programs needing hands-on experience, such as midwifery and medical courses that require clinical internships.
Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, said the Food and Drug Administration had approved the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for minors age 12 to 17.
But he warned against allowing “walk-ins,” saying it could lead to overcrowding at jab sites and “spell disaster” for government efforts to curb the pandemic.
He made the call as the committee discussed proposals on the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes, as well as the rollout of vaccines to minors.
Gatchalian said the NTF should not apply a “first-come, first-served” arrangement for the upcoming sets of vaccine recipients.
He cited the experience of Valenzuela City, which supposedly imposed “strict” schedules to avoid overcrowding in jab sites.
According to NTF data based on reports from the Department of Health and the Global Burden of Disease, 12.7 million minors belong to the 12 to 17 age group, with an estimated 10 percent with comorbidities.
At least eight hospitals have been selected for the first phase of the vaccination on Oct. 15-30: National Children’s Hospital, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, Fe Del Mundo Medical Center and Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City; Philippine General Hospital in Manila; Makati Medical Center; Pasig City Children’s Hospital; and St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City.
“It’s about time we vaccinated our teenagers, and we support the prioritization of teenagers with comorbidities. [But] we don’t want a scenario where they will be lining up in those eight hospitals,” Gatchalian said. —With a report from Patricia Denise M. Chiu
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