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News Article

COVID-19 Vaccination of Children in the Spotlight

By Miriam Bello | Mon, 08/02/2021 - 11:00

While some COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for children as young as 12, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Deputy Minister of Health Hugo López-Gatell have discarded vaccinating them. During a recent press conference, they suggested that behind the suggestion to vaccinate children were commercial interests of pharmaceutical companies.

“We cannot be subject and subordinate to what the pharmaceutical companies say about vaccinating children or third doses,” said President López Obrador. He had previously announced that the government was not considering the purchase of vaccines for children and adolescents until science proved the need to do so. López-Gatell had also indicated that that to date, there is not enough scientific evidence backing vaccination for children but pointed to a “strong opinion campaign” led by the pharma industry to do so.

Last month, López-Gatell had tweeted that COFEPRIS’s New Molecules Committee had evaluated Pfizer's proposal and recommended authorizing the use of its vaccine in children from 12 years of age. “If this authorization is granted, we will prepare to include this group in the National Vaccination Plan against COVID-19.”

The decision to vaccinate children may depend on local trends, explains Nature. For instance, UK health advisors recommend vaccinating adolescents for the time being, as severe illness, deaths and even long COVID-19 are rare among healthy adolescents and children. As such, the US has registered higher numbers of severe COVID-19 cases and the CDC is already vaccinating children over 12 years old. The center points out that cases of myocarditis and pericarditis in adolescents and young adults have been reported more often after getting the second dose than after the first of one of the two mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. “These reports are rare and the known and potential benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks, including the possible risk of myocarditis or pericarditis.” In general, vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer–BioNTech, and two Chinese vaccines made by Sinovac and Sinopharm have been approved as safe for children over 12 years old.

Another subject under debate is whether to vaccinate children when there are other groups at higher risk. Director General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom, has encouraged high-income countries to donate vaccines to the COVAX initiative instead of vaccinating their youth. “In a handful of rich countries, which bought the majority of the vaccine supply, lower-risk groups are now being vaccinated. I understand why some countries want to vaccinate their children and adolescents, but right now I urge them to reconsider and to instead donate vaccines to COVAX.”

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst