Children vulnerable to Delta variant, but adults must be prioritized in vaccination – FDA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 10) – The country's Food and Drug Administration recognized the risk of children contracting the more transmissible Delta variant, but remained firm that adults must be prioritized in the current vaccination program.

FDA chief Eric Domingo made the remark on Monday in response to the question of President Rodrigo Duterte in the weekly Inter-Agency Task Force meeting on why the vaccination of children has suddenly cropped up.

"Dito sa Delta variant, mas mabilis siyang makahawa ng bata at mas maraming bata ang nagkakaroon ng severe disease," Domingo told the President.

[Translation: The Delta variant can be more infectious to children and many of them are suffering from severe disease.]

RELATED: Are kids vulnerable to the Delta variant? More children getting infected with COVID-19 

Domingo added that the safety of COVID-19 vaccines must be first tested on adults before they are administered to children.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III echoed the same opinion, saying further studies must be made to ensure that the vaccines are safe for children, especially those who are immunocompromised.

Domingo emphasized that once the current vaccine priority groups are fully vaccinated, they will consider starting the inoculation of children.

RELATED: Yes, children can be affected by Covid-19. Here's why doctors say they need to be protected 

When Duterte asked if the danger of children being infected with the Delta variant is now the same with adults, Domingo said older people are still more vulnerable to it.

"Kailangan pa rin nating i-prioritize ang older people kasi more than 13 times ang possibility nila na magkaroon ng severe disease at mamatay from COVID-19 compared to the younger people," Domingo explained.

[Translation: We need to prioritize older people because they are 13 times more vulnerable to have a severe disease and die from COVID-19 compared to the younger people.]

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. on Sunday said the government is looking to expand the country's COVID-19 vaccination program to include children and teenagers after seeing how they are impacted by the more transmissible Delta variant.

Infants, children with comorbidities more at risk of severe COVID-19

While coronavirus-infected children usually only experience mild or no symptoms, the president of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines said it may be different for certain kids.

Citing international data, Dr. Mary Ann Bunyi said infants as well as children with underlying medical illnesses are more at risk of developing severe COVID-19 complications compared to other minors.

This is because they have a weaker immune system to fight off the virus, she explained in a CNN Philippines interview on Tuesday.

Even so, Bunyi said before including children in the national COVID-19 vaccination program, her group believes more adults should be inoculated first as they are still more prone to hospitalization and death.

“Kapag nabakunahan sila, indirectly, ma-poprotektahan din naman nila 'yung mga batang kasama nila sa bahay,” she said.

[Translation: Once they’re vaccinated, they would also indirectly protect the children they stay with at home.]

Ultimately, Bunyi added, the observed increase in infections among children -- who she noted generally just stay at home -- is an effect of the rise in cases among adults whom they live with.