WHO urges countries to consider the benefits of vaccinating children against Covid-19 but prioritize sharing shots worldwide

“Countries should consider the individual and population benefits of immunizing children and adolescents in their specific epidemiological and social contexts when developing their COVID-19 immunization policies and programs,” the statement, published Wednesday, said.

The WHO has long argued that vaccines should prioritize older adults, people with chronic health conditions and health professionals and that it is “less urgent” to vaccinate children. The new statement recognizes that some countries that have already distributed vaccines to those priority groups, including the United States, are now rolling out vaccines for children.

In addition to the US and most members of the European Union, there are other countries that vaccinate children, including Cuba, the first country to vaccinate children from 2 years old from September, Chile, China, El Salvador and United Arab Emirates.
“As a matter of global equity, countries that have achieved high vaccine coverage in their high-risk populations, as long as many parts of the world are experiencing extreme vaccine shortages, should prioritize sharing COVID-19 vaccines globally through the COVAX facility before continuing to vaccinate children and adolescents at low risk for serious disease,” the WHO statement said. COVAX is from WHO global vaccine sharing program.

“Given the current global inequality in vaccine access, the decision to vaccinate adolescents and children should take into account priorities to fully protect the highest-risk subgroups through primary vaccination series, and as vaccine effectiveness evolves over time. decreases since vaccination, through booster doses,” the WHO statement said. said.

“As such, before considering implementing primary vaccination series in adolescents and children, achieving high coverage of primary series – and booster doses if necessary based on evidence of decreasing and optimizing vaccination impact – in the highest risk subgroups , such as older adults, are considered.”

A push to vaccinate the world

The WHO has long called for global vaccine equality.

In August, the WHO urged the 20 most powerful world leaders and pharmaceutical leaders to reverse “shameful” inequalities in vaccine access by the fall.

Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to the Director-General of WHO and head of the ACT Accelerator Initiative, said in an August social media Q&A that the world should be “disgusted” by the imbalance of the tools available to fight the pandemic. He called on the richest countries in the world to focus on helping all countries vaccinate 10% of their population by September 2021.
That target was not met, as “56 countries effectively excluded from the global vaccine market were unable to meet the target of vaccinating 10% of their population by the end of September — and most in Africa,” the director said. of the WHO. -General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a news briefing last month.
Earlier in the pandemic, WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) issued a “road mapon how to prioritize the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines, starting with the most at-risk groups, an approach adopted by most countries.

“I think whether children get vaccinated or not will depend a lot on how we can treat these other priority groups first, which is the epidemiology of the disease,” said WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan Wednesday on a news story. briefing in Geneva.

Millions of children around the world have missed routine vaccinations during the pandemic, study suggests

She added that more data on children is needed to better understand how much natural infection has occurred in their age group, something that will vary from country to country.

“Then if we hit the targets of reducing transmission, really to very low levels, then of course one could consider vaccinating children at that point as well,” Swaminathan said.

“I think the guidance for children will be very contextual and specific to the local context,” she said. “But then we also have to wait for more vaccines to have the data in children before we can make further recommendations.”

The WHO notes in its new interim statement that there are benefits to vaccinating children and adolescents beyond direct health benefits, including that vaccinations could help keep schools open safely and prevent the transmission of coronavirus in other age groups, including older adults. , to decrease.

The WHO also states that it is of “extreme importance” that children continue to receive their recommended childhood vaccinations against other infectious diseases.

In data published in July, the WHO reported that 23 million children in total missed basic vaccinations last year – that’s 3.7 million more than in 2019.

“Even as countries clamor for COVID-19 vaccines, we have backtracked with other vaccines, putting children at risk for devastating but preventable diseases such as measles, polio or meningitis,” Tedros said in the July announcement.

“Multiple disease outbreaks would be catastrophic for communities and health systems already battling COVID-19, making it more urgent than ever to invest in childhood vaccination and ensure that every child is reached.”

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