Asia Pacific

Philippines starts COVID-19 vaccinations for 12-17 year olds

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A health worker prepares to inoculate a child with Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during the vaccine rollout for children with comorbidities, in Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines, October 15, 2021. PASIG CITY PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE/Handout via REUTERS.

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MANILA, Oct 15 (Reuters) - The Philippines started vaccinating young people aged 12-17 against the coronavirus on Friday, hoping it will enable schools to safely reopen even as the country battles one of Asia's worst COVID-19 outbreaks.

It follows many other countries in expanding its immunisation drive to minors.

Authorities plan a pilot run of a return to face-to-face classes in up to 120 schools next month.

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The Philippines was among 17 countries globally where schools have been closed for the entirety of the pandemic, according to a September report by the United Nations children's agency UNICEF.

"For me, I'm looking forward to getting back to face-to-face classes in the future," said Gyle Fernandez, 17, one of more than 1,000 children who received their vaccinations on Friday.

The Philippines is prioritising 1.2 million children with existing health conditions and has approved two vaccine brands for minors.

Of its 2.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, 7.8% affect young people aged 10-19 years old. Fatalities among that bracket are comparatively lower, making up 0.6% of the country's more than 40,000 deaths.

The Philippines reported 7,625 new coronavirus infections on Friday, among the lowest in two months. New cases fell to a daily average of 10,500 this month compared to nearly 19,000 in September.

Jacquelyn Dannug, 40, said she wanted her child, 12, to have protection.

"It would be difficult as we are often outside and she could possibly get infected if she is not fully vaccinated," said Dannug, standing beside her daughter.

The Philippines will further relax coronavirus restrictions in the Manila region starting from Saturday. It has so far vaccinated nearly 24 million of its 110 million population.

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Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty and Susan Fenton

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