By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

PHILIPPINE drug regulators have approved the emergency use of Pfizer, Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine for children at least 12 years old, as the government’s vaccination drive breached six million people.

The use of the Pfizer shot was expanded under a May 28 memo issued by the Health department and local Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but released only on Tuesday. The Pfizer drug used to be prescribed for people aged 16 years and older.

FDA Secretary General Enrique D. Domingo earlier said the American drug maker had proposed to change its authorization to include younger people after the vaccine was found to be 100% effective for the age group.

The Philippines is set to receive as many as 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine this year. Vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. has said children could get vaccinated by the fourth quarter.

“While we welcome more vaccines that are approved for children and adolescents, due to limited vaccine supply, our vaccination strategy remains the same — prioritize the vulnerable and adhere to our prioritization framework,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told reporters in a Viber group message.

She added that the general consensus among local vaccine experts is to revisit child vaccination “once our vaccine supply has stabilized.”

Of the six million coronavirus vaccine doses given out as of Monday, almost 4.5 million doses were initial doses, while about 1.6 million doses were second shots, presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing on Tuesday.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 4,777 coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing the total to 1,280,773.

The death toll rose by 95 to 22,064, while recoveries increased by 7,122 to 1,202,257, it said in a bulletin.

There were 56,452 active cases, 93.2% of which were mild, 2.5% did not show symptoms, 1.3% were critical, 1.7% were severe and 1.19% were moderate.

The agency said eight duplicates had been removed from the tally, six of which were reclassified as recoveries. Forty cases tagged as recoveries were reclassified as deaths.

About 12.9 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of June 6, according to DoH’s tracker website.

Meanwhile, Senator Francis N. Pangilinan said the Senate would examine the additional spending on vaccines.

Budget Secretary Wendell A. Avisado earlier said the state needs P25 billion on top of the P82.5 billion allotted for vaccine orders under the second stimulus law.

“We need to examine this proposal so the public will be enlightened about the additional spending,” he said in an e-mailed statement in Filipino. “Why is the present budget not enough? Where is the money going?”

Mr. Pangilinan said the Senate Committee of the Whole should hold another hearing where the questions should be answered.

The committee had probed the government’s vaccination plan earlier this year. The lawmaker said it is time again to check on the progress of the government’s vaccination program.

“We wrote to the Senate President about this matter last March and he said that he is open to reconvening,” he said. “We hope we can do so even while in sine die adjournment so we can take necessary steps to further improve our vaccine rollout.”

Also on Tuesday, Senator Leila M. de Lima commended several Filipino-American groups of registered nurses, doctors and community advocates for asking the United States to send millions of doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s coronavirus vaccine to the Philippines.

The detained opposition senator, who is on trial for drug trafficking, issued the statement after US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed to write to US President Joseph R. Biden to give the Philippines five million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The efforts of these Filipino-American leaders are truly commendable as they show that they do not forget their countrymen even though they are miles away from home,” Ms. De Lima said. “True Filipinos in heart and spirit.

“The five million vaccine doses that could be given to the Philippines can make a big difference because these can protect thousands of lives against the deadly COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) virus,” she added.

Mr. Roque said the Philippines had received more than 9.3 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, about 6.5 million of which came from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and 2.5 million came from AstraZeneca.

The government had also received about 80,000 Sputnik V vaccines from Russia and 193,050 doses from Pfizer.

Mr. Galvez has said the country would take delivery of as many as 40 million vaccines from June to August.

The Philippines, which started its vaccination drive on March 1, seeks to inoculate as many as 70 million Filipinos this year to achieve herd immunity.