Pfizer jabs OK’d for kids age 5-11
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed the administration of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in children 5 to 11 years old, so far the youngest age group approved to receive the shots in the country.
However, FDA Director General Eric Domingo said the Pfizer vaccine that was granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for this age group on Thursday was of lower dosage and concentration than those given to adults. This means the government will have to procure these vaccines separately.
Domingo said the government was planning to start the vaccination of 5-year-old to 11-year-old children in January but the schedule would depend on when the right Pfizer doses would arrive.
Still for procurement
“While the FDA has already given the EUA for Pfizer vaccines for this age group, the government will still need to procure the Pfizer vaccines with lower concentration and dose suitable for 5 to 11 years old,” the Department of Health (DOH) said, adding that the guidelines for this have yet to be released.
Based on estimates in November, there were about 13.5 million children falling under the 5 to 11 age group, according to the DOH.
The National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) will be releasing soon the updated figures based on 2022 Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) population projections.
According to Dr. Kezia Rosario of the NVOC, the DOH is still determining the volume of vaccine needed for the younger age group.
In granting the application for EUA, Domingo said the use of the Pfizer vaccine on younger children would provide more benefits than risks.
The adverse effects seen during the clinical trial, such as fever and pain on the injection site, were mild and similar to the effects of other vaccines that children receive, he said.
The Pfizer vaccine is already being used for the younger age group in the United States, Europe and Canada, Domingo said. It has an efficacy rate of above 90 percent for children 5 to 11 years old, he added.
He said the FDA has yet to receive any application from the DOH for the administration of booster shots in minors belonging to the 12-year-old to 17-year-old age group. The government started the vaccination of this age group in October.
At present, only adults can get their booster shots three months after completing their two-dose primary vaccine series or two months for those who got single dose vaccine.
The interval for the booster shot administration was shortened in light of the threat posed by the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
The NVOC said it was expecting people to start coming in droves to vaccination sites to get their booster shots early next year.
At the Laging Handa briefing, Rosario said many were seen postponing their visit to vaccination sites in view of the Christmas holiday. Also, vaccination sites will be closed on Dec. 24, Dec. 25 and Dec. 31, 2021, and Jan. 1, 2022.
On Tuesday, she said, about 48,000 booster doses were administered.
Rosario said some local government units preferred to go full blast on the booster shot administration early next year to give them time to prepare.
The NVOC estimated that about 19 million individuals were now eligible for booster shots.
On the matter of supply, Carlito Galvez Jr., the National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer, said recent developments would not affect the country’s vaccine inventory and ongoing vaccination program.Even with the shortened wait time for boosters, the country can still support 10 million to 15 million people getting booster shots, Galvez said.
He said there were 90 million doses in stock and more were expected to arrive which could sustain the vaccination program up to mid-2022.
Rosario said about 992,000 doses were administered on Wednesday, the last day of the extended second round of the “Bayanihan, Bakuhanan” National Vaccinations Days.
More areas affected by Typhoon “Odette” (international name: Rai), such as Surigao del Norte and Dinagat Islands, have also resumed their vaccination activities, she said.
The government is planning a third round of mass vaccination from Dec. 27 to Dec. 30.
The NVOC has yet to come out with a full report on incidents of wastage of vaccines during and after the onslaught of Odette. Rosario said the NVOC was still gathering information on the status of the vaccines placed in storage facilities that ran on generators.
She said health authorities were instructed to consider as wasted vaccine vials that were soaked in floodwater and those that were not stored in the required temperature for more than four hours. —With a report from Nestor Corrales
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