Following the detection of more cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in the Philippines, Senator Win Gatchalian is pressing the urgency of vaccinating minors to prevent them from becoming “variant factories.”
Because of its increased transmissibility, the Delta variant first detected in India is considered a variant of concern. The World Health Organization (WHO) called this variant the fastest and fittest. As of July 29, there are 216 total cases of the Delta variant in the Philippines, eight of which have died.
“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,” said Gatchalian, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
Since schools are surrounded by economic activities such as the use of transportation and the operation of small businesses, Gatchalian added that vaccinating learners will provide an added layer of protection.
“The kids might not get infected as fast as science says, but their parents, the shopkeepers, the sari-sari store owners, they might be susceptible to the virus spread. So that’s why the approach to school opening should be very cautious and the step forward to that is to launch pilot schools in zero COVID areas,” Gatchalian emphasized.
The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Health (DOH) are crafting the guidelines for the gradual reintroduction of face-to-face classes. According to DepEd, at least 100 schools will participate in the pilot study of limited face-to-face classes once President Rodrigo Durterte gives his approval.
To date, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has the Philippine Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) nod for use on adolescents aged 12 to 15. Secretary Galvez said last June that the government is eyeing to use 20 million of Pfizer doses for minors. Drug maker Sinovac also applied for authorization to use its vaccine CoronaVac on minors aged 3 to 17.
Aside from securing adequate vaccine supplies to cover minors, Gatchalian cited the importance of getting the protocols and systems in place, especially among local government units.