CLOSE to 30 million Filipino children are still unprotected and unvaccinated for COVID-19. The low uptake on pediatric Covid vaccine has prompted the Vaccine Solidarity Movement and health experts to call for a National Vaccination Day for Kids to protect them against the dreaded virus.
Overall public hesitancy about children’s vaccination against COVID-19, specifically coming from their parents, has led to a low turnout in the vaccination sites. About 27 million Filipino children, aged 0-11 years old, still need to undergo pediatric vaccination, according to Philippine Medical Association President Dr. Benny Atienza. He added that in order for the National Vaccination day to be successful, there should be active participation of parents and schools.
In yesterday’s Kapihan ng Samahang Plaridel on the topic: “Updates from the Vacci-Verse: Omicron Truths & Myths, Pediatric Covid Vaccine News and the Journey to the New Normal,” also emphasized that there is no need for the public to panic as vaccination, current health protocols, as well as the right medical information remain the best defense against COVID-19 and its present and future variants. They also separated Omicron facts from myths in the recent online Kapihan forum hosted by the Samahang Plaridel, an association of Filipino journalists and communications specialists who aim to bring to the forefront of public awareness prevailing national issues and current affairs.
The Vaccine Solidary Movement (VSM) is a platform for public health experts and the private sector that provides informed decisions to policymakers and helps drive public immunization to counter the pandemic.
Dr. Benny Atienza, President of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), in calling for a special vaccination day specifically for the pediatric age group, appealed to the “Local Government Units (LGUs) and our schools to help organize and participate in disseminating the importance of COVID-19 vaccination for our children.” He also emphasized that the role of parents will be critical in pushing for this national COVID-19 immunization since they are ultimately the ones who will decide if their kids will go to the proposed vaccination sites. Setting the vaccination in schools should also provide a friendly, welcoming environment to both kids and their families.
Dr. Lulu Bravo, Executive Director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV), also pointed out that “the most vulnerable among us are the children who are not yet vaccinated—get them vaccinated.” She also reminded everyone, even those who had received full doses, “Do not be complacent. Do not be exposed.” The booster shot or the third dose of the vaccine has seen “the effectiveness of the vaccine against hospitalization increased to 94%.”
Enrique Gonzalez, Founder and Chairman of IP Biotech and the Family Vaccine and Specialty Clinics (FVSC), also gave the global numbers that supported the importance of pediatric vaccination. First, the majority of adolescents around the world, especially in developing countries like the Philippines, has not yet been vaccinated. This can lengthen the time to achieve global herd immunity, while worldwide vaccination might take up to the end of 2023.
Meanwhile, China’s vaccination of 110M of its children (to date) with Sinovac has shown the efficacy of the vaccine. Another study showed the same high efficacy rate among the 1.9M minors, ages 6 to 16 years old, who have been vaccinated in Chile. As Gonzalez summarized, “Large data sets from other countries clearly show these vaccines protect children as well.” He concluded that the “root of hesitation in vaccine hesitancy is not in the data and studies, but in reports that focus on adverse events. Experts and public health leaders need to bring vaccine literacy to the forefront of their efforts— and this will eventually help parents become more comfortable in getting COVID-19 vaccines for their children.”
Eric Teng, Chief Executive Officer of the Mother Spice Food Corp., weighed in on the importance of the private sector response to the specter of Omicron. Currently, more than 90% of the restaurant staff in Resto PH, the group of restaurant operators he represents as President, have been vaccinated as of the end of 2021. Sanitation of their premises, equipment, delivery services, and personnel have also been constant. According to Teng, “while we restaurant workers face all sorts of people all the time, we are not the ones who are in hospitals despite some infections. Clearly, vaccination has helped our staff in becoming immune to the virus.”
Reiterating that vaccines have been proven to be a safe, reliable COVID-19 defense for the families, Teng said he looks forward to their returns to the restaurants once restrictions are lifted. “Going to a dine-in restaurant is a different experience from food delivery. We want our customers to get good experience and good service from safe service.”
In calling for the National Vaccination Day for Children, Dr. Bravo reminded everyone that winning the war against the virus in behalf of the kids is a collective effort that starts with their elders who must learn to distinguish fact from fake news and science from unfounded fears. She said, “Scientists go forth to develop new vaccines that will propel us to fight and defeat this virus. Vaccination is the way forward on how we can end this pandemic. Be the hero who will convince the others to be vaccinated, especially those who are already immuno-compromised”—and in addition, the youngest members of our society.
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