Gov’t adviser: Vaccinate minors first before giving boosters to others
MANILA, Philippines — Vaccinating minors age 12 to 17 and the rest of the eligible population who have yet to get a single dose of the vaccine against COVID-19 is more important than administering booster shots to those who have completed their inoculation, according to a government pandemic adviser.
Dr. Edsel Salvana, an infectious disease expert, on Tuesday said children could get infected with the coronavirus and also infect others, so they should be protected.
They could also get severe COVID-19, although their risk is lower compared to the elderly and other members of the vulnerable population, he said at a briefing in Malacañang.
“As long as we protect our vulnerable population, it would be good to vaccinate children so that fewer people could get infected with the virus,” he said.
“What we know is that while the number of vaccinated people in a country is low, it is more effective to use the doses on those who have yet to get vaccinated before using these as boosters, because you will prevent more people from being hospitalized if you will prioritize the unvaccinated versus using the vaccines as boosters,” he said.
As for vaccinating children under 12, manufacturers will have to apply for a new emergency use authorization for their vaccines, Salvana said.
In a roundtable discussion with reporters last week, Dr. Rommel Lobo, a pediatrician, allergist and clinical immunologist for adults and children, also pushed for vaccinating children.
“If you’re worried about the adverse events, for example the allergic reactions, at present, it’s kind of rare in the pediatric population,” he said.
“In fact … as far as I know from the allergy fellows that I met, there are only two reactions from the several thousands that have been vaccinated,” Lobo said.
He said that they were monitoring the children who have been vaccinated between seven and 21 days for myocarditis, or the inflammation of the heart, and had not seen a single case so far, although the monitoring continued, he said.
Salvana said scientists around the world were still collecting more data on what booster shots were appropriate for the general population, the immunocompromised and the elderly.
He noted that in the United States, booster shots have been authorized for the immunocompromised and those above 60 years old.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has approved a recommendation by the Health Technology Assessment Council to administer booster shots and an additional dose to priority groups as long as there is sufficient vaccine supply and inoculation targets were reached. This program has yet to be rolled out.
27.3M fully vaxxed
The government has administered more than 59 million doses and has fully vaccinated 27.3 million, according to Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje, who heads the National Vaccination Operations Center.
Cabotaje said almost 100 percent of health workers had gotten the jab and 57 percent of the elderly had been fully vaccinated.
She hoped that by December, almost 100 percent of Metro Manila’s eligible population would be vaccinated.
For the rest of the country, she said the government was looking to complete the vaccination by the first quarter of next year.
Local Metro Manila rollouts
The second dose for the children vaccinated in Metro Manila could be administered by next month, she said.
The cities of Taguig and Marikina kicked off the vaccination program for 12 to 17 years old without comorbidities on Tuesday.
The rollout in Taguig for minors with no comorbidities, other residents and those studying in the city was conducted at Lakeshore Hall and Bonifacio High Street while children with comorbidities were inoculated at Medical Center Taguig.
The city governments of San Juan, Las Piñas and Manila are set to begin their pediatric vaccinations on Wednesday.
Manila has at least 51,551 minors registered for inoculation at six district hospitals.
According to the city’s health department, as of Oct. 29, 2,474 minors with comorbidities have received their first dose.
San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora said they were aiming to start vaccinating 800 minors and gradually increase the number.
“We are immediately launching this vaccination drive because we want to protect the children and help them get their lives back on track,” he said.
—WITH A REPORT FROM JANE BAUTISTA
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