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DepEd urged to brace for prolonged distance learning up to next school year

COVID-19 shots for kids may not be available in PH until summer of 2022 – Defensor

Rep. Michael Defensor (Anakalusugan) on Sunday urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to brace for prolonged distance learning, saying that COVID-19 shots for Filipino children below 16 years old may not be available in the country until the summer of 2022.

“There is a high probability that we won’t have extensive face-to-face classes in the school year 2021-2022, considering that vaccine clinical trials abroad on younger children are just getting started,” Defensor, vice chairperson of the House committee on welfare of children, said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said that he will not allow large-scale face-to-face classes in public and private elementary and high schools until a vaccine becomes available.

“Vaccine developers overseas are still trying to assess the safety of their shots on three age groups of children. They are also trying to ascertain the appropriate dosage for each age group,” Defensor said.

“While some clinical trials on children aged 12 to 15 years old are underway, trials on those aged 5 to 11 years old are just kicking off. Trials on children under 5 years old will be the last to be carried out,” Defensor pointed out.

World Health Organization (WHO) experts have maintained that while children and adolescents tend to be less susceptible to severe COVID-19, they may spread the highly contagious respiratory disease to older and more vulnerable people, including teachers, parents and grandparents.

Preventing more dropouts

“We would urge schools to improve and expand their delivery of online learning as well as modular and TV/radio-based instruction, with a view to preventing more dropouts and enrolling more students in the transition to the next school year,” Defensor said.

“In fact, with the help of barangay officials, DepEd should identify those students who previously dropped out, and then encourage them to enroll next school year,” Defensor said.

Some 23 million students are enrolled in public and private elementary and high schools nationwide for the school year 2020-2021. This is down 4.7 million, or 17 percent, from the 27.7 million enrolled in 2019-2020.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has so far approved four vaccines for emergency use to prevent COVID-19.

Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine may be used “in individuals aged 16 years and older.”

Sinovac Life Sciences Co. Ltd.’s vaccine may be used “in individuals aged 18 to 59 years old.”

Gamaleya National Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology’s vaccine may be used “in individuals aged 18 years and older.”

The FDA recently suspended the use of AstraZeneca plc’s vaccine in Filipinos under 60 years old pending investigation of blood clots coming from overseas.

The vaccine was previously approved for use “in individuals aged 18 years and older.” (Vina de Guzman)