The Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that pediatric vaccination will start among 12 to 17 year olds with comorbidities as part of Priority Group A3. Expansion beyond this group will follow once adequate coverage of the A2 priority group or senior citizens has been achieved nationwide and vaccine supply becomes sufficient to include children.

The DOH emphasized the need for a careful and planned rollout of vaccines for children. Considering that the risks of contracting severe COVID-19 infection or dying from COVID-19 is significantly lower for healthy children,  it follows that the benefits from vaccination relative to the risk of a healthy child is also lower, compared to a sick child, adult or senior citizen.

In finalizing the guidelines, the DOH is ensuring that (1) informed consent by the parent /guardian and child prior to vaccination will be obtained; (2) supply availability of Pfizer and Moderna, the only vaccines with emergency use authorization for 12 to 17 years old issued by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration; and more importantly, (3) equitable access to medical clearance by a physician for children with co-morbidities.

“For the initial run, we recommend that children with co-morbidities will be vaccinated in selected sites with clearance from their pediatricians or trained doctors, or for far-flung or Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA), with clearance from on-site trained physicians guided by a checklist from the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP). We have to ensure that children have equitable access to vaccines. Eventually, as we get more local experience, we will be able to retool our current vaccinators on the additional precautionary steps on screening and vaccine administration,” said DOH Spokesperson and Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire.

The DOH further called on all those eligible among the adult population to get vaccinated and get the additional protection that vaccines offer to also protect children who cannot be vaccinated as of this time.

“Like what our DOH All Expert Group has always emphasized, even if we have approved the recommendation to vaccinate children with comorbidities, we still have to increase our vaccination coverage among other priority groups, especially our senior citizens. COVID-19 vaccines continue to offer the protection they promised against severe COVID-19 and deaths, but we have to remember to still adhere to the minimum public health standards as we may still get infected or infect others,” said Usec. Singh-Vergeire.