Philippine officials continue to strengthen the country's vaccination program against COVID-19 amid the threat of a new coronavirus variant, Omicron. This includes efforts to expand the age group eligible for the pediatric vaccination.
The vaccination of children ages 5 to 11 can happen as soon as January 2022, according to Philippine vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. in an interview with CNN Philippines.
This plan will only proceed if, by the end of December 2021, the Philippine Food And Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the emergency use authorization (EUA) of vaccine brand/s to be used for the younger age group.
"Nag-usap nga kami ni D.G. Eric Domingo, baka nga lumabas (EUA) before the end of December. Ang naka-plano sa amin, once na lumabas ito, immediately we will execute it. Ang planning namin is first quarter ng 2022, so January mag-start tayo and we want to finish that immediately sa 1st quarter," Galvez said.
Galvez adds the government plans to finish pediatric vaccination as soon as possible as part of the preparation for the reopening of classes. The vaccine czar also takes into consideration the presence of the new coronavirus named "Omicron."
"'Yung pediatric vaccination, should be finished immediately so that 'yung ating opening of classes ay magsimula na po.
At tsaka 'yung tinatawag natin na ma-protektahan na rin po 'yung ating mga children because of the Omicron," Galvez shared.
Earlier, FDA Director-General Eric Domingo said in a Malacanang press briefing that they are waiting for Pfizer to submit its application to use their vaccine for ages 5 to 11.
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"I hope that they (Pfizer) will be sending in their application for an EUA very soon. They already asked for the list of requirements and they told us that they're completing the requirements," Domingo said.
Precautions vs. Omicron
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the Omicron variant as a "variant of concern"
The new variant was first detected in South Africa. The Philippines has not reported any cases of the Omicron strain but has already closed its borders to countries that have confirmed cases of the new variant of concern as a precaution.
The country also held a three-day national vaccination drive from November 29 to December 1, 2021.
Health officials have been reiterating their calls to parents to do their part in protecting children against COVID-19. Currently, children ages 12 and above are eligible to receive the vaccine. While age restrictions are lifted in most establishments, parents are advised to keep children out of crowded areas and keep in mind to practice basic safety protocols like physical distancing and wearing of face masks.
Click here for FAQs on COVID-19 vaccine for minors.