Health experts called for more options on pediatric COVID vaccination to meet the goal of 39 million COVID-vaccinated kids and achieve herd immunity.
In today's Kapihan ng Samahang Plaridel with the theme: “Kids Kontra COVID: Urgent Need for Safe Options in Children's Vaccination", Vaccine Solidarity Movement (VSM) founders Dr. Lulu Bravo, Executive Director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV) and Dr. Benny Atienza, president of the Philippine Medical Association, stressed the need for pediatric COVID vaccination and allayed fears of parents amid the continued proliferation of misinformation and fake news regarding vaccination.
Dr. Bravo explained why vaccination for minors is necessary: “Getting COVID-19 carries a risk that children may become very unwell. There is also a potential to develop post-COVID-19 symptoms and/or severe complications such as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). Naturally infected children can also spread the virus to others. Vaccination can significantly reduce the risk and protect children from developing COVID-19 in a safe and controlled way. It can also reduce the chance of spreading the virus to others. “
Another factor that can accelerate vaccination, including the pediatric kind, is the presence of more vaccine options in the country. To date, only two have been approved for child immunization by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While only one brand is currently being used in the inoculation of kids 5 to 11 years of age, Dr. Bravo said that "Clinical trials are still ongoing for other brands such as Sinovac, a Korean vaccine, and [another] Chinese vaccine.” Sinovac is, in fact, being used already in pediatric COVID vaccinations in other countries such as Indonesia.
Dr. Bravo also stressed the importance of avoiding vaccine fallacies by listening only to doctors and public health experts. She said, "Claims such as excess deaths, behavioral changes in kids, that these vaccines are experimental, that the risks of vaccines outweigh the benefits---all of these claims are not based on science and should therefore not be entertained."
Dr. Benny Atienza, President of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), one of the oldest public health organizations in the Philippines, disclosed "that so far there have been 54 sites used for jabbing the 5- to 11-year-old demographics. Then from February 7 to 11, there have been a total of 69,800 children who have been vaccinated." He also noted that the country is expecting some 15M additional vaccine doses to arrive this month to help the government achieve its target coverage by May.
During the pediatric vaccination roll-out, 40 hospitals have participated including the Philippine Heart Center, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, National Children’s Hospital, Manila Zoo, SM North Edsa (Skydome), and the Fil Oil Gym in San Juan City. Dr. Atienza said that
the Philippine government is targeting to vaccinate more than 39.41 million children aged zero to 17 years old, of which 12.74 million are aged 12 to 17 years old, 15.56 million are 5 to 11 years old, and 11.11 million are 4 years old and below.
Dr. Bravo further added that other pediatric COVID vaccines may be available in the near future as "they are already in advanced clinical trials and therefore should be rolled out soon.