The government will start vaccinating children and the general adult population against COVID-19 in October after President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation of vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., Malacanang said Tuesday.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said this after Galvez earlier recommended the vaccination of 12- to 17-year-olds by the middle of October, as COVID-19 infections continue to spread in many parts of the country.
This developed as the government allowed the resumption of face-to-face classes for more college programs, the Commission on Higher Education said Tuesday.
CHED Chairman Prospero de Vera, in a statement, said the President gave the go-ahead for limited face-to-face classes to other degree programs that require hands-on experience in higher education institutions (HEIs) in areas under modified general community quarantine.
Programs allowed for in-person classes include engineering and technology, hotel and restaurant management, tourism and travel management, and maritime courses.
Before this, only students in medicine and the allied health sciences were allowed to hold in-person classes.
De Vera earlier said the programs were selected because students were required to have “hands-on experience.”
Of the first batch of students allowed to hold in-person instruction, less than 1 percent tested positive for COVID-19, prompting De Vera to call for the expansion of on-site classes for other programs.
In his public address Monday night, Duterte encouraged parents to inoculate their children to end the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, which has already claimed millions of lives around the globe.
“I now encourage you -- those who have yet to receive vaccines -- to get inoculated,” Duterte said.
Duterte said the government may expand the vaccination program to the general population “and hopefully also, our children within October.”
The Philippines has so far received 69,699,340 doses from various COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers.
He said the government is aiming to administer at least 55 million doses of vaccines by the end of October.
More than 20.3 million Filipinos, or 26 percent of the country’s eligible population have been fully vaccinated, while 23.6 million have received at least their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Overall, the government has administered a total of 44 million doses.
Economic centers across the country like Metro Manila, Baguio City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, and Davao City have also surpassed 50 percent vaccination of the target population.
Citing vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., Duterte says total vaccine deliveries to the country are expected to hit 100 million by end-October.
The steadier supply means the vaccination program may be expanded to cover children, the President added.
“Government is practically pleading on its knees for people to get the shots, for they are a danger to the rest of the population as a potential COVID-19 carrier,” he said.
Until most Filipinos get the jab, “life will continue to be abnormal for about 2 to 3 years,” Duterte said.
Galvez said health officials were expected to come up with guidelines to start vaccinating individuals younger than 18 in about two weeks.
Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje also said those aged 12 to 17 with comorbidities may be among the first in the age group to get the vaccine, as part of the country’s A3 priority group.
On Tuesday, Vice President Leni Robredo called on the Duterte administration to hasten the vaccine rollout in the provinces.
She raised concern that many local government units have been requesting for more doses of the COVID-19 vaccines.
In an interview in Magalang, Pampanga, Robredo said the concentration of COVID-19 cases is not just within the National Capital Region, but also in the provinces.
Since the government launched its vaccine drive last March 1, health officials were aiming to vaccinate about 77 million Filipinos to reach a goal of 70 percent.
But with targets now raised, vaccinating 90 percent of the country’s population would include inoculating adolescents below 18 years old, since all eligible adult Filipinos are already accounted for in the 70-percent goal.
The President reported Monday that 20.3 million Filipinos have been vaccinated so far, or about 26 percent of the eligible population, leaving about at least 60 million more unvaccinated.