Vaccination of children aged five to 11 years started on February 7 with the government ignoring calls from the World Health Organization (WHO) to first inoculate a high level of high-risk groups currently pegged at 59.8 million (out of 109 million total population) before tending to minors.

But consent of the children’s parents must first be secured.

Senators Risa Hontiveros and Imee Marcos opposed the vaccination of children without their parents’ consent.

“If the parent is not agreeable to it, it should be respected,” Hontiveros said at a news briefing, adding that the state should instead use information campaigns to fight vaccine hesitancy among parents for their children.

Marcos for her part said, “I hope this push to vaccinate kids is really for their sake and not for the sake of vaccine purchases already made.

Parents have the right to decide on the health and safety of their children, instead of the state usurping parental authority.”

The Health department earlier issued a memorandum allowing willing children to get vaccinated without their parents’ consent.

Under the memo, the state would act as the legal protector of citizens unable to protect themselves, with government shouldering hospital expense if any child develops virulent side effects.

The government’s vaccination of children aged five to 11 against the coronavirus was supposed to start on February 4 but was pushed back for February 7 after the first batch of vaccine delivery got delayed.

Almost 800,000 doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer finally arrived. The Pfizer vaccine is the only shot approved for emergency use by kids five to 11 years old. The vaccine has a lower dosage and concentration compared with the one given to the 12 to17 age bracket.

The Philippines started vaccinating minors 12 to 17 years in October. The vaccination of children aged five to 11 years started in six sites in the capital region.

Vaccination sites included the Philippine Heart Center, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, National Children’s Hospital, Manila Zoo, SM North Edsa and Fil Oil Gym in San Juan City. It will be expanded to include Central Luzon and the Calabarzon region on February 8.
“Even in the midst of a pandemic and recession, parents want confidence when it comes to the health of their children as we are also returning to work and employment,” Hontiveros said.

“This issue also needs to be settled properly,” she said, adding that hopefully, it doesn’t have to reach the courts.

Health Undersec. Myrna Cabotaje, who heads the Philippines’ National Vaccine Operations Center, said the government seeks to inoculate 15.5 million children aged five to 11 years.
Marcos said: “Let’s prioritize the elderly and not lose sight of fully vaccinating the most vulnerable groups before rushing to vaccinate healthy kids.”

She cited the WHO’s call for governments to first achieve a high level of vaccination among high-risk groups before vaccinating minors.

As of Friday, 59.8 million have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, while 60.7 million have received their first dose. About eight million people have received booster shots.

The Health department, justifying its memo doing away with parental consent, said more than two-thirds of coronavirus cases among the pediatric group in January were children aged 11 years and younger.

More children got infected with the coronavirus during the recent surge spurred by the highly mutated Omicron variant, it said.

Kids aged 11 years and younger accounted for 56 percent of the total pediatric cases in September 2021, when the Delta variant spurred a spike in infections.