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    Medical, health experts upbeat on a healthier, safer Christmas for Filipinos this year

    Urge families and kids to get their COVID-19 shots on National Vaccination Day

    Medical and health experts are optimistic that the country may enjoy a healthier, safer Christmas this year
    with an opportunity to get the whole family vaccinated in the upcoming 3-day National Vaccination Day
    on November 29-30 and December 1.
    The Philippine Medical Association’s (PMA) campaign, themed “Masaya ang Pasko ng Bakunadong
    Pamilyang Pilipino,” is in line with the government’s drive to get 15 million more Filipinos inoculated
    during the three-day nationwide event.
    With the long Christmas holiday’s tradition of gathering entire clans together, PMA President Dr. Benny
    Atienza remarked that their younger members should also receive protection against COVID-19. He
    expressed his “hope that children be vaccinated and we encourage parents, barangays, and LGUs to join
    us in our National Vaccination Day. Public and private entities are working as one to disseminate benefits
    of vaccination.”
    Dr. Atienza added that vaccine hesitancy can be overcome by continuous dissemination of correct
    medical information to all demographics, young and old: “The PMA believes in teaching empowerment.
    We will continue implementing innovative activities that will raise standard health education among
    young children and their respective communities.”
    Dr. Lulu Bravo, Executive Director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV), agreed about
    teaching children about vaccination at an early age because “they can lead us to the end of this
    pandemic.” She further urged the adult members of society, especially the parents, to “be a hero, by
    saving your lives and your loved ones through vaccination.”

    Reason for children vaccination
    There are pressing, if little-known, medical reasons to include children and teens in COVID-19
    vaccination. Although perceived as “more low risk, they can get very sick with COVID-19. They can
    also get short and long-term complications,” explained Dr. Nina G. Gloriani, Chairperson of the Vaccine
    Expert Panel, Technical Working Group for COVID-19 Vaccines, Department of Science and
    Technology. “Children can spread COVID-19 via droplets. We have to underscore the fact that
    unvaccinated children can be asymptomatic.”
    Dr. Gloriani added that COVID-19 children vaccination had already started with those who have
    comorbidities, focusing first on the 16-17-year-olds, and then proceeding to the 12-to-14-year-old
    demographic. She also acknowledged that “almost 50% of the targeted Filipino individuals have received
    their first doses, 74 million doses in total. The more recent is 103 million jabs. The number of jabs a day
    is a million in the NCR. “

    Dr.
    Eric
    Tayag, Director of the National Epidemiology Center in the Department of Health (DOH), added that the
    vaccination of children should be ongoing, not just against COVID-19 but also “preventable diseases. We
    are having catch-up vaccinations on measles, diphtheria, and hemophilia. We protect the children when
    we vaccinate them.”
    National recovery
    Enrique Gonzalez, Founder and Chairman of IPB/Family Vaccines Specialty Clinics (FVSC), affirmed
    that “Ensuring the safety of vaccines to children is of prime importance.” He also pointed out that
    SinoVac, the vaccine his company distributes, is doing a global trial on children’s COVID-19 vaccination
    in several countries. The more agile regulators in nations like Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Chile have been
    using SinoVac under the Emergency Use Agreement, acting “quickly in ensuring that kids are protected
    when they go back to school.”
    Gonzalez gave another insight on the importance of quick mass vaccination, saying: “It is critical to
    helping the country recover and get back on its feet. Vaccines prevent severe symptoms and
    hospitalization. It is important that the public continue to have access to vaccines so we can achieve and
    maintain herd immunity.”
    Prior to the pandemic, FVSC has been at the forefront of inoculation against infectious diseases to the
    marginalized, subsidizing 50,000 vaccinations for the rural poor across more than 18 provinces.
    Accomplished journalist Niña Corpuz gave her perspective on vaccination as a mother of three kids.
    Addressing the understandable fears of parents, she said that “webinars and access to experts and research
    show that there is no reason to be hesitant. If vaccines come out for younglings, I would be among the
    first to give vaccines to my children.”
    Education vs. fake news
    Finally, amidst the gradual reopening of onsite classes in the country, Dr. Maria Corazon C. Dumlao,
    Chief of the Department of Education’s Bureau of Learner Support Services – School Health Division,
    affirmed their support for “pediatric vaccinations against COVID-19. Immunization activities are being
    conducted with learners continue during the pandemic.” Other initiatives include allowing schools to
    become vaccination sites and coming up with strategies related to vaccination campaigns.
    Miguel Bermundo, Senior Manager of Sustainability and Social Responsibility of Globe Telecom, agreed
    that education and fighting vaccine disinformation are vital to increasing COVID-19 vaccine uptake.
    Through their many platforms, programs, and partnerships with groups like the UNICEF, “we use our
    digital resources and network to fight harm against kids online and the proliferation of fake news.”
    As the National Vaccination Day approaches, Dr. Bravo exhorted the public to be well-informed and join
    a health advocacy which can provide a better life for themselves and their families: “We should prepare
    for a pandemic preparedness plan—this will not be the last. We should value experts’ opinions. Be a
    vaccine advocate, someone who can lead us to restore vaccine confidence and fight vaccine hesitancy.”

    Upper row, from L-R: Business journalist Mimi Ong; Dr Lulu Bravo, Executive Director of the Philippine
    Foundation for Vaccination; and Dr. Maria Corazon Dumlao, Chief of the Department of Education’s

    Bureau of Learner Support Services – School Health Division.

    Middle row, from L-R: Dr Nina Gloriani, Chairperson of the Vaccine Expert Panel, Technical Working
    Group for COVID-19 Vaccines, Department of Science and Technology; Dr Benny Atienza, President of
    the Philippine Medical Association; and Enrique Gonzalez, Founder and Chairman of IPB/Family

    Vaccines Specialty Clinics.

    Bottom row, from L-R: Journalist and entrepreneur Niña Corpuz; Dr Eric Tayag, Director of the National
    Epidemiology Center, Department of Health; and Miguel Bermundo, Senior Manager of Sustainability and

    Social Responsibility, Globe Telecom.

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