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Vaccinating children, adolescents less urgent than older people: WHO

Vaccine vial. Stock photo: By Ali Raza/Pixabay

Geneva, Nov 25 (MNN) The World Health Organisation has said that vaccinating children and adolescents is “less urgent” than older people and those with chronic health conditions and health workers.

It is so because children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared with adults, unless they are in a group at higher risk of severe COVID-19, the world body said on Wednesday (local time).

As a matter of global equity, as long as many parts of the world face extreme vaccine shortages, countries that have achieved high vaccine coverage in their high-risk populations should prioritise global sharing of COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX facility before proceeding to vaccinate children and adolescents who are at low risk for severe disease, the WHO said.

Therefore, the WHO opined, different countries should consider individual and population benefits of immunising children and adolescents in their specific epidemiological and social context when developing COVID-19 immunisation policies and programmes.

It pointed out that there are benefits of vaccinating children and adolescents that go beyond the direct health benefits.

“Vaccination that decreases COVID transmission in this age group may reduce transmission from children and adolescents to older adults, and may help reduce the need for mitigation measures in schools.”

The WHO said that aligned and coordinated action is needed to achieve the global COVID-19 vaccination targets.

“Given current global inequity in vaccine access, the decision to vaccinate adolescents and children must account for prioritisation to fully protect the highest risk subgroups through primary vaccination series, and as vaccine effectiveness declines with time since vaccination, through booster doses.

“As such, before considering implementing primary vaccination series in adolescents and children, attaining high coverage of primary series – and booster doses as needed based on evidence of waning and optimising vaccination impact – in highest risk subgroups, such as older adults, must be considered.”

It is however of utmost importance for children to continue to receive the recommended childhood vaccines for other infectious diseases.

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