February 3, 2022 | 3:09 p.m.
Manila, Philippines (Updated at 5:39 p.m.) – Parents have filed a petition in the Quezon City Magistrate’s Court seeking an order halting the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination for children between the ages of five and 11.
Former ABS-CBN reporter Dominic Almelor and Girlie Samonte, through the Public Prosecutor’s Office, filed the motion questioning the mandate of the Department of Health, “in view of the possible deprivation of the legal authority of parents/guardians over their children, without the authority of the law or judicial intervention.”
They asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order and/or a writ of preliminary injunction to restrain the DOH from rolling out its vaccination program for said age group of children.
The petitioners also urged the court to declare unconstitutional and null and void the DOH memorandum dated January 24 on interim guidelines for the administration of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.
Specifically, they attacked part of the DOH memorandum:
If the parent/guardian refuses to give their consent to the vaccination despite the desire and the will of the minor child to be vaccinated, or if there is no person who can legally exercise parental authority over the child, the state can act as parens patriae and give the necessary consent.
The DOH said the Department of Welfare and Development or its state or municipal counterparts can represent the state and sign the consent form.
The petitioners said they did not intend to defame the government’s efforts in the pandemic, but sought to protect the “highly vulnerable population from undue health risks and fatal consequences” because COVID-19 vaccines are “fairly new” and seek “respect for parents”. / parental authority of guardians over their children with regard to the interests, well-being, health and safety and life of the latter.
Vaccination not mandatory
The petitioners said the DOH and its officials committed a serious abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when they issued the memorandum because it compels vaccination against COVID-19.
They said it’s clear from Republic Act 11525, or the COVID-19 Vaccine Program Act of 2021, that vaccination is not mandatory, but the attacked DOH memorandum “allows disregard full right of a parent/guardian to decide the best interests, well-being, life and health of his child.”
“It undoubtedly allows vaccination against COVID-19 against the wishes of parents/guardians exercising parental authority over their children who obviously cannot competently decide on their own; even if no law has been passed making such vaccination mandatory,” they said.
The petitioners also pointed out that children cannot make wise decisions on their own and will be forced to get vaccinated against COVID-19, which they say remains experimental, against the wishes of their parents or guardian. .
While COVD-19 vaccines are only licensed in the Philippines under emergency use authorizations, the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration have repeatedly assured the public that they are sure.
Petitioner Almelor said he was fully vaccinated with the Moderna mRNA vaccine, but did not want his child to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. He told the court that by allowing his child to be vaccinated, he would “knowingly and voluntarily waive any right of action to seek compensation for any harm caused to his child”.
Samonte is one of the plaintiffs who sued the DOH over alleged adverse effects of the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine. In presenting her case against the COVID-19 vaccination of her two children, she cited the case of her other son who she said was hospitalized after receiving Dengvaxia.
PAO leader Persida Acosta, whose name appears in the current petition, has become the face of those who believe their loved ones have died or become ill from Dengvaxia. She also said she had not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 as she was awaiting a protein-based vaccine due to her medical history of hypertension and allergic reactions.
READ: How the Dengvaxia scare helped erode decades of public trust in vaccines | Acosta’s refusal to get a COVID-19 shot contributes to vaccine hesitancy – Drilon
DOH: Vaccination will proceed as planned
The government is set to roll out vaccination for children aged 5 to 11 in February. For this age group, a reformulated dose of Pfizer-BioNTech will be used.
Then-Food and Drug Administration chief executive Eric Domingo said in December that the regulator had granted EUA to the Pfizer vaccine for said age group because it is “reasonable to believe that the vaccine can be effective in preventing COVID-19 and the benefits of vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks.”
He added that the vaccine has a 90% effectiveness rate in children aged 5 to 11, while the side effects of the vaccine in this age group are “very mild”.
The DOH said it recognizes the petitioners’ right to file a complaint, but it said it would continue to roll out the vaccine program as part of its commitment to protect all sectors of society, including children.
In a statement, the DOH pointed out that the vaccination policy covering the said age group was the result of studies conducted by health experts and has been approved in many countries.
“[A]All FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective. More than 8.1 million children have already been vaccinated globally, and no deaths or serious adverse reactions have been reported among those vaccinated,” the department added.
The DOH also said it has received more than 100,000 pre-registrations so far for the vaccination of children ages 5 to 11, and this “number signifies the willingness and confidence of parents to vaccinate their children against the deadly virus. “.
“We would also like to emphasize that parental consent forms are required for all minors who will be vaccinated, and that additional measures have been taken to ensure their safety,” he added.