By Rjay Zuriaga Castor


MANILA, Philippines — As the government raced to protect more people against more contagious coronavirus variants, the Department of Health (DOH) pronounced Wednesday that it is eyeing to start the expansion of the COVID-19 vaccination program to children aged 12 to 17 on October 15 and will be piloted in Metro Manila. 

Since Metro Manila has shown good vaccination progress, Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said that the inoculation of minors will start in the region. 

"Ang target natin ay masimulan ito sa Oct. 15. Uumpisahan natin sa National Capital Region kasi maganda-ganda na ‘yong kanilang coverage ng kanilang vaccination, lalong-lalo na ‘yong kanilang A2 (senior citizens)," Cabotaje said in a Laging Handa public briefing.

"Pagkatapos ng dalawang linggo, ito ‘yong tinatawag na test run, ay dadalhin na natin sa iba’t ibang rehiyon. Uumpisahan ang pagbabakuna sa may comorbities," added the health undersecretary.

Cabotaje further reiterated that children and their parents or guardians should sign consent forms for the vaccination. And for minors, they should also present medical certificates proving their health risks. 

According to the DOH, the move to vaccinate children with comorbidities was because they risk contracting COVID-19 easier compared to healthy children. 

"Considering that the risks of contracting severe COVID-19 infection or dying from COVID-19 is significantly lower for healthy children, it follows that the benefits from vaccination relative to the risk of a healthy child is also lower, compared to a sick child, adult or senior citizen," the statement read.

The DOH, however, has yet to release next week the list of pre-existing health conditions that would allow a child eligible for vaccination by October. 

So far, only US-made COVID-19 vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna have secured an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for 12- to 17-year-olds in the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Malacañang on Tuesday confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte already approved the opening of the COVID-19 vaccination to the general population in October. 

“Inaprubahan na po ni Presidente ang pagbabakuna sa general population simula po ng buwan ng Oktubre,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing.

To date, of the country's 109 million people, there are at least 20 million fully vaccinated Filipinos so far — but still far from the government's goal of inoculating at least 70 million.