Vaccination of street kids pushed in Cebu
CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philippines — A group of more than 3,000 doctors and medical professionals in Cebu province has proposed the vaccination of street children in a bid to protect them from COVID-19.
The Cebu Medical Society (CMS) recently called on the local government and private groups to inoculate street children in the city, many of whom had been observed to be not wearing face masks.
Two obstacles, however, cropped up in this plan.
“While we hope to vaccinate them (street children), there has to be a consent from their parents [because they are minors] as well as the presentation of birth certificates,” Dr. Peter Mancao, vice president of CMS, said in a telephone interview.
Without the requirements, he said, it is difficult to inoculate street children who may display symptoms related to the vaccine’s side effects.
Dr. Minnie Monteclaro, CMS president, suggested to include street children in the vaccination of minors to protect them from infection.
Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, chief pathologist of the Department of Health in Central Visayas, agreed, saying: “These street kids are exposed and we need to protect them as well.”
“These less fortunate kids deserve our care and compassion. Since it might be difficult to reach out to their parents or guardians, the CHD (City Health Department) should dialogue with DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) on how to handle and implement the vaccination,” Loreche added.
Dr. Jeffrey Ibones, the CHD chief, said they would coordinate with the DSWD so the agency could help facilitate the vaccination of street children.
“We have to be very careful so we won’t be blamed if something bad happens to the child. After all, we are trying our best to protect everyone from the virus,” he said.
Cebu City’s vaccination for children ages 5 to 11 started on Wednesday at the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC) and Ayala Center-Cebu. The city government hoped to accommodate 200 to 250 children at CCSC, and 100 to 150 at Ayala Center.
Ibones said they had limited the number of children receiving the vaccine on the first day but might increase this in the following days.
The vaccination sites had been decorated with balloons while loot bags had been prepared for children to help ease their tension and make the event fun.
Nurses and vaccination personnel wore costumes of superheroes and other cartoon characters.
“We’re doing that so children will enjoy and won’t mind the vaccination process,” Ibones said.
Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the government’s vaccine czar, witnessed the rollout of children’s vaccination in Zamboanga City on Tuesday and said he was happy seeing them getting inoculated.
Eleazar Llamantam, 8, considered the mild sting he felt from the injection as his ticket to “freedom” after being confined at home for two years.
“I can play with my friends, I can return to school and play with my classmates, it’s like freedom,” Llamantam said in Chavacano.
Galvez hugged Llamantam to provide him comfort after he received the jab.
Sisters Sitti Khadija Tedding, 9, and Fatima Aisha, 7, entered the Zamboanga City Central School campus for the vaccination with a mix of excitement and nostalgia.
Sitti Khadija was in Grade 1 when in-person classes were stopped due to the pandemic. The younger Fatima Aisha experienced formal education during the pandemic through the learning modules that her mother would pick every week.
“I miss my classmates and teachers. When my mother told us we will go to school, I was so excited. It’s also the first time for my sister to be inside the school,” Sitti Khadija said.
Yam Tedding, the girls’ mother, said her daughters, especially the eldest, kept on asking about the time when they could get out of their house.
Galvez said local officials had requested replenishment of vaccine supplies, expecting that these would be used up by Thursday.
“Once the replenishment arrives, we will prioritize Zamboanga,” Galvez said.
He said around 780,000 doses formulated for children ages 5 to 11 would arrive next week.
Getting this age group protected through vaccination, Galvez said, is crucial in reopening in-person classes.
In Iligan City, the local government launched the vaccination for children on Wednesday at Adventist Medical Center Iligan.
Ed Krishna Alivio of the Iligan City Health Office said they were targeting to inoculate a total of 57,480 children, or 1,300 kids daily.
Dr. Amelita Maria Hamoy, chapter president of the Philippine Pediatric Society-North Central Mindanao, said they understood the interest of children to get vaccinated and be allowed to get out because of the importance of social interactions outside the home.
—WITH REPORTS FROM JULIE S. ALIPALA AND DIVINA M. SUSON