Save the Children Philippines is alarmed by the increasing number of reported cases of children and adolescents already infected with COVID-19 amid woes of Delta variant spread, and calls on the government, parents, caregivers, and other stakeholders to work hand-in-hand with urgency to protect children and youth from the virus.
Data presented by health authorities showed that over 48,000 children ages 19 and below have acquired COVID-19 as of February 2021 where 40.2% are from the 15-20 years old age group, 17.4% are ages 5-9, and 18.5% are ages 4 and below. Globally, children account for up to 15% of confirmed cases.
While children may not belong to the “high-risk groups” and most Filipino children infected with COVID-19 remain to be mild as studies show, there is a growing concern that the highly contagious Delta variant is more fatal to children, especially to those with co-morbidities or who are less than one year old since their immune response is either compromised or not yet developed.
“The symptoms of children should not be disregarded,” said Dr. Cecilia Francisco, Director for Thematic Programs of Save the Children Philippines.
“Children with COVID-19 generally have milder effects and better prognosis than adults but those who have underlying diseases have higher risks to experience severe illnesses,” added Francisco.
Since inoculation of children against COVID-19 is not yet a priority and the country is still on its way to achieving herd immunity with around 26.6 million Filipinos vaccinated as of recent, Save the Children believes that the greatest protection that can be given to children is for adults to get vaccinated. The sooner this is done, the greater chances for children and adolescents to rise in the priority list.
The child rights organization believes that while adults are prioritized for vaccination, children must also continue to receive other life-saving immunizations and health nutrition services necessary for their survival.
“We call on the government to ensure that all children will have safe and inclusive access to basic childhood vaccines and receive routine immunization for vaccine-preventable diseases, even at the time of pandemic,” said Atty. Alberto Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines.
“We also emphasize our call to parents, guardians, caregivers, and communities for them to act more responsibly around children by strictly adhering to the minimum health and safety protocols to protect themselves and their children from the imminent threats of the Delta variant,” said Muyot.
Save the Children Philippines has been supporting the Department of Health’s National Immunization Program through its health and nutrition programs which include nutrition-specific interventions and nutrition-sensitive programs, and has been working closely with Rural Health Units (RHU) to promote and ensure full immunization of children at age 12 months. This is also part of the Nurturing Care Framework included in the First 1000 Days ordinances based on Republic Act 11148 (Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act) advocated by Save the Children Philippines to local government units.