(File photo)

MANILA – The pilot vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 years old will push through despite a petition filed by two parents to stop the drive, the Department of Health (DOH) and the pandemic task force said Thursday.

In a joint statement, the DOH and the National Task Force against coronavirus disease 2019 (NTF-Covid-19) said they recognize the parents' right to file a case and they will wait for the legal process to take its course.

"However, as far as the national government is concerned, we remain steadfast in our commitment to protect all sectors of society, which include children and other vulnerable groups," the statement read.

"As such, we will proceed with the vaccination rollout for the said age group as planned," it added.

Dominic Almelor and Girlie Samonte, who have children within the 5 to 11 age group, filed a petition before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Quezon City seeking a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction against the drive.

In their petition, the complainants are concerned about the provision of DOH memorandum No. 2022-0041 that says "the State may act as parents patriae and give the necessary consent" in case the parent or guardian refuses to give consent despite the desire and willingness of the child to get vaccinated.

Result of careful study

The DOH and NTF, meanwhile, underscored that rollout for 5 to 11 years old is the result of careful study by health experts and has been approved in many countries, including the United States.

"[A]s we always emphasize, all Food and Drug Administration-approved Covid-19 vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective. Over 8.1 million children have already been vaccinated worldwide, with no reports of deaths and serious adverse events among those vaccinated," they said.

The agencies noted that no adverse events were recorded among the over nine million minors aged 12 to 17 years old who have been vaccinated with at least one dose, since their vaccination rollout began in October 2021.

"In the Philippines, we have already recorded over 100,000 pre-registrations for the vaccination rollout for children aged five to 11. This number signifies the willingness and confidence of parents to have their children vaccinated against the deadly virus," they said.

They also pointed out that "parental consent forms are required for all minors" who will be vaccinated, and that extra measures have been taken to ensure their safety.

They said the vaccines that will be used for the 5 to 11 years old are reformulated, meaning the dosage is lower compared to those given to the older age groups.

"Vaccinating them is crucial to achieve our goal of protecting all members of the Filipino family - children, adults, and senior citizens. This will enable us to continue the safe reopening of schools and other public spaces, as well as ensure the full economic recovery of our nation," they said.

The pilot vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 years old was reset from the original February 4 schedule to February 7 due to logistical challenges.

The NTF said there is a slight delay in the delivery of the FDA-approved Covid-19 vaccines allocated for this age group.

The initial shipment of the reformulated low-dosing Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines is expected to arrive on Friday evening, causing the postponement of the pilot run.

The government eyes the vaccination of 12.74 million minors aged 12 to 17 years old and of 15.56 million aged 5 to 11 years old. (with reports from Lade Jean Kabagani/PNA)