Permanent Secretary for Health Doctor James Fong says trying to source the pediatric doses for 5 to 12 years old is a little bit complex as these doses have to be specifically made and is much more expensive.
Dr Fong highlighted this when questioned by LegendFM News on when will these children be getting their doses as we now have Pfizer for those aged 12 years and above in the country.
A number of parents have contacted us, saying that they want to know the government’s plans for vaccination for those aged 5 to 12 years as Early Childhood Education to Year 7 students will have to return to school from Monday.
They are also worried that out of 113 COVID-19 deaths reported during the third wave of COVID, four deaths were under the age of 12 years and these children were not eligible for vaccination. These deaths were due to underlying medical conditions.
Individuals in the 12 to 17 years age group who have died were not vaccinated.
The parents that have contacted us and raised concerns about the safety and security of their children say the Ministry of Health has received reports of teachers and students testing positive for COVID-19 in schools.
Concerns have been raised that children under the age of 12 years will return to school from Monday and none of them have been vaccinated.
There is also a risk that it will be even harder for teachers to ensure these children follow all the protocols in place.
They are also saying that countries like the US and Australia are vaccinating children aged 5 years and up. They hope the same will be done in Fiji soon to protect the children.
While responding to the questions, Doctor Fong says usually manufacturers will want them to order by the many millions but our population that requires it is not even a million and we only have close to about 150,000 children.
Dr Fong says they will have to work with a group and that means there has to be a lot of negotiation and discussion.
We then questioned Dr Fong on when these negotiations will be done or if there is a timeline on when these children should get vaccinated as a lot of parents have raised serious concerns about schools opening for the unvaccinated children from Early Childhood Education to Year 7.
Dr Fong says he cannot confirm any timeline but we just need to be aware that the discussions are progressing and beyond that, the details need to be left to those that are progressing the discussions.
When questioned if they will be working with the Fijian Government in acquiring these vaccines for the 5 to 12-year-olds, the UNICEF Representative for the Pacific, Jonathan Veitch says this is something they will be discussing with the Health Ministry and the WHO over the coming months. Veitch says they believe that schools should be the last to close and the first to open.
He says if there are other public spaces open like restaurants, shops and bars, the schools should open as well because children are less vulnerable to adults than adults are.
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