PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

THE PHILIPPINES will start its nationwide coronavirus vaccination for all minors aged 12 to 17 next month, health authorities said on Wednesday.

In a statement, the Health department said it will begin the nationwide rollout of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination for children on Nov. 3.

Vaccination for children with comorbidities in that age group started earlier this month in the capital region while other areas are preparing for the rollout by Oct. 29.

The guidelines for the nationwide inoculation of all minors are yet to be finalized, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said.

“Further details and the guidelines with regard to the nationwide expansion of pediatric vaccination will be released once finalized,” she said.

The vaccines made by Pfizer, Inc. and Moderna, Inc. will “still be used among children during the nationwide rollout,” she said.

Citing the country’s statistics agency, the Department of Health (DoH) said the Philippines has around 12.7 million children aged 12 to 17 in 2021.

As of Oct. 26, a total of 18,666 minors with comorbidities received their first dose, the agency said.

The Philippines, which has been seeing a downward trend in new coronavirus infections, targets to inoculate at least 50% of its adult population by yearend.   

The DoH reported 3,218 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to nearly 2.8 million.

The death toll rose to 42,348 after 271 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 6,660 million to nearly 2.7 million, the DoH said in a bulletin.

The agency said there were 50,152 active cases, 73.4% of which were mild, 6.8% were asymptomatic, 6.2% were severe, 11.02% were moderate and 2.6% were critical.

The Health agency said the intensive care unit occupancy rates nationwide and in Metro Manila were at 51% and 42%, respectively.

DoH said 41 duplicates were removed from the tally, 37 of which were reclassified as recoveries. It added that 227 recoveries were reclassified as deaths. One laboratory failed to submit data on Oct. 25.

Meanwhile, Molnupiravir, the first oral antiviral drug for the treatment of coronavirus patients, will be available in the country next month, according to local importer MedEthix, Inc.

The first batches of the Molnupiravir will be used for 300,000 coronavirus patients in the country, MedEthix co-founder Monaliza Balnig Salian told a virtual news briefing.

The drug will be imported under a compassionate special permit (CSP) issued by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration last September, she said.

The market price of Molnupiravir, estimated at P100 to P130 each, will be finalized in early November, JackPharma, Inc. President Meneleo Hernandez said. It will be “quite affordable.”

MedEthix and JackPharma are set to further discuss how Molnupiravir works in the treatment of mild COVID-19 during meetings and webinars with healthcare frontliners next month.

“As the first local importer to be granted CSP as early as September, MedEthix is likely to be the first to distribute the new drug to Filipinos through its partnerships with hospitals,” MedEthix said in a press release.

Molnupiravir works by “introducing copying errors during viral RNA replication,” MedEthix said. The investigational pill enters the COVID-19 virus and alters it to become harmless, it added. “Even if the virus replicates, it is no longer deadly.”

Clinical trials sponsored by MSD licensee Aurobindo Pharma in India showed that 81% of 1,200 mild cases who took Molnupiravir had negative RT-PCR results on the fifth day of treatment, MedEthix said.

“Molnupiravir comes in a 200 mg capsule with a recommended regimen of 800 mg to be taken twice daily for 5 days or as prescribed by a physician,” the drug firm said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza