Kids aged 5 to 11 can start getting Pfizer shots on Feb. 4
MANILA, Philippines — The government plans to begin vaccinating 5- to 11-year-old children on Feb. 4, following the expected delivery of the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine formulated specifically for them.
Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF), assured parents of children in this age group that the vaccine would be safe.
Speaking at a meeting with President Duterte in Malacañang on Monday night, Galvez said the Pfizer vaccine had “a lower formulation appropriate for children.”
He also said the government was more prepared now as it has learned from its experience in vaccinating minors age 12 to 17.
The plan is to immediately set up two vaccination sites per city in Metro Manila, he said. Both hospital and nonhospital vaccination sites would be opened. After one week, vaccination sites would be established in other regions, Galvez said.
“The supply will arrive next week and we could roll it out by Feb. 4,” Galvez said.
NTF adviser Dr. Ted Herbosa said 780,000 doses of Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine would arrive on Jan. 31.
There will be weekly deliveries to complete the 15 million shots of the two-dose vaccine ordered by the government, Herbosa said.
The government is aiming to inoculate 14.7 million children in the 5 to 11 age group, the youngest so far authorized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Lulu Bravo, executive director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, said there was no reason to fear for the safety of the children.
Bravo said Filipino children have been receiving vaccines against various illnesses for half a century.
Since the mass vaccinations were launched, the number of children dying of measles, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, meningitis and diarrhea has gone down, she said.
She also said a lot of research had gone into the development of the COVID-19 vaccines, including those for children, and these had produced good outcomes.
“This is why people should not lose their trust in vaccination,” she said.
Ignore the quacks
Hesitancy in vaccinating children could be addressed with scientific data, Bravo said.
“Let us not believe quack doctors who pretend that they are good,” she said. “People should believe those who devote every year to studying the vaccines, conduct a real vaccine trial.”
In its latest weekly overview on suspected adverse reactions to COVID-19, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that it received 2,732 reports on the effects of the vaccines on adolescents who were inoculated from Oct. 15, 2021, to Jan. 16 this year
It said 139 cases were “serious,” 2,563 were “nonserious” and that the effects on the rest had not yet been determined.
The most common reactions were dizziness, pain at the site of the injection, fever, headache and high blood pressure.
There were two cases of myocarditis, or the inflammation of the heart muscle, and a lone case of pericarditis, or the inflammation of the lining outside the heart. Both are known side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna in adolescents and young adults.
The causal link of the heart ailments to the shots are being reviewed, FDA said in its report.
It stressed, however, that the benefits of getting jabbed outweigh the risks.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said vaccine side effects “are normal signs that your body is building protection.”
“Serious side effects that could cause a long-term health problem are extremely unlikely following any vaccination, including COVID-19 vaccination,” it added.
Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea and Australia have also started inoculating children.
Children as young as 3 are eligible for Chinese-made COVID-19 shots in Argentina (with Sinopharm), China (Sinovac and Sinopharm) and Hong Kong (Sinovac).
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a government’s decision to start the vaccination of minors should be made in the context of inequitable vaccine distribution, globally limited vaccine supply and a country’s inoculation coverage targets.
In its interim statement on COVID-19 vaccination for children and adolescents, WHO said that the direct health benefit of inoculating the younger age group is lower compared with vaccinating adults because of the “lower incidence of severe COVID-19 and deaths in younger persons.”
Unless they belong to a group at higher risk of severe COVID-19, vaccinating the young “is less urgent” than older people, those with chronic health conditions and health workers, WHO said.
But WHO noted the benefits of vaccinating minors such as reducing transmission from children and teens to adults, minimizing disruption to education and maintaining their overall well-being.
The government also announced that it would begin administering the booster dose at pharmacies in Baguio City on Wednesday. Acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said 2,626 booster shots were administered in the first four days of the new program to use pharmacies or private clinics as venues for inoculations, after it was rolled out in Metro Manila last week.
—WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH INQ
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