SENATOR SHERWIN T. Gatchalian, chair of the Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, is pushing government to speed up the launch of the vaccination program for minors while preparing for the gradual return to physical classes in low-risk areas of the country.  

“The kids might not get infected as fast as science says, but their parents, the shopkeepers, the sari-sari (neighborhood convenience) store owners, they might be susceptible to the virus spread,” said Mr. Gatchalian in a press release over the weekend.   

He said vaccinating students would provide an added layer of protection, especially with the more transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus, as schools are tied to economic activities such as the use of public transportation and the operation of small businesses. 

“By the time we get enough supply we can already vaccinate teenagers, and this is a very crucial stage in going back to face-to-face classes,” the senator said.   

The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Health (DOH) are crafting the guidelines for the gradual reintroduction of in-person classes.   

At least 100 schools would participate in the pilot study of limited face-to-face classes once President Rodrigo R. Duterte gives the green light, according to DepEd. 

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Strategic Advisory Group of Experts has concluded that the Pfizer/BionTech vaccine is suitable for use by people aged 12 years and above. Children aged between 12 and 15 who are at high risk may be offered this vaccine alongside other priority groups for vaccination. Vaccine trials for children are ongoing.   

Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., who head the vaccine program, said in June that the government is eyeing to use 20 million Pfizer doses for minors. Drug maker Sinovac has also applied for authorization to use its vaccine CoronaVac on minors aged 3 to 17.  

As of July 22, the country has received 2.4 million doses of Pfizer shots through the COVAX facility co-led by the global vaccine alliance GAVI,WHO, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

The national government has also so far procured 26 million Sinovac shots.  

Aside from securing adequate vaccine supplies to cover minors, Mr. Gatchalian cited the importance of getting the protocols and systems in place, especially at the local government level. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan