The latest World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 Situation Report of the Philippines showed that only 36.8% of children aged 5 to 11 had gotten their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Physicians warn that children and adolescents remain susceptible to infection with COVID-19.
With the ongoing face-to-face classes, physicians have urged parents and parent figures to have their children vaccinated for COVID-19. Dr. Philip S. Nakpil, Medical Director at Zuellig Pharma Therapeutics, echoed the call of doctors worldwide to vaccinate children: “The longer we wait to get our children vaccinated, the higher the chances that we are putting our children’s long-term health at risk.” “Children who are now back in school are in an environment that increases their risk of getting sick and, moreover, increases the possibility of bringing the virus home and infecting the family.”
The pediatric COVID-19 vaccine, such as the Moderna mRNA vaccine and other approved COVID vaccines, can protect children from 5 to 11 years old from the severe effects of COVID. These vaccines also aid in protecting the entire family—especially those at risk, such as infants, the elderly, or those with comorbidities. In fact, outbreaks of COVID have previously been identified in schools, children’s camps, and daycare centers, where children were less likely to observe physical distancing or the wearing of masks to reduce the risk of transmission.
Studies have shown that children are more likely to experience milder symptoms or be asymptomatic for COVID-19, which leads to fewer children and adolescents being tested, resulting in unreported cases. This makes it more likely that they will spread the virus to other kids or bring it home, where it might not be noticed in the child but spread to the rest of the family.
Several risk factors for severe COVID-19 in children have been reported, including obesity and pre-existing conditions. Type 2 diabetes, severe asthma, heart and pulmonary diseases, seizure disorders, other neurologic disorders, neurodevelopmental (like Down syndrome), and neuromuscular conditions, as well as moderate-to-severe immunocompromising conditions, are all linked to a higher risk of severe COVID.
Reports from the Philippine Department of Health have reflected that most children who died due to COVID were unvaccinated children. As such, Nakpil urges Filipino parents and parent figures to check with their pediatricians and apply for the vaccine through their local government units. “The COVID-19 vaccine protects children from the severe and long-term effects of the virus, ultimately creating a safer environment for kids to be kids.”