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WHO says rich countries should prioritize donating vaccine doses to poor nations rather than giving shots to kids because children are at low risk of severe illness

  • The WHO issued a statement on Wednesday that rich countries should prioritize donating COVID-19 vaccines to poor nations rather than immunizing kids
  • The group said this is because the low risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 that children and teens face
  • Several low- and middle-income countries, particularly in Africa, have given fewer than 10% of the population at least one dose 
  • Studies have found that while children are as likely as adults to contact Covid, only about half experience symptoms compared to 90% of adults 

The World Health Organization is urging richer countries to focus COVID-19 vaccination efforts on sending doses to poorer nations rather than immunizing kids.

Over the past few weeks, regulatory agencies around the world have authorized Covid shots for use children, including the U.S., Canada, China, the European Union, allied solutions auto warranty India and Israel. 

In an interim statement issued on Wednesday, the WHO said children and adolescents are at a low risk of severe disease and death from the virus.

Meanwhile, several countries, especially those in Africa, are facing vaccine shortages and have inoculated fewer than 10 percent of their populations.

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

The WHO issued an interim statement on Wednesday that rich countries should prioritize donating COVID-19 vaccines to poor nations rather than immunizing kids, due to children’s low risk of severe illness and death. Pictured: : First grade student Rihanna Chihuaque, 7, receives a covid-19 vaccine at Arturo Velasquez Institute in Chicago, Illinois. November 12

Several low- and middle-income countries, particularly in Africa, have given fewer than 10% of the populations at least one dose compared to the U.S. and the UK (above)

In the U.S., the campaign to vaccinate children and teens against COVID-19 has been well underway since spring 2021.

Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid vaccine received emergency use authorization for those aged 12 to 17 in May and for those aged five to 11 this month.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 11.5 percent of five-to-11-year-olds have received at least one dose as have 60.7 percent of 12-to-17-year-olds.

However, in its statement, the WHO said it ‘is reviewing the emerging evidence on the need for and timing of vaccinating children and adolescents with the currently available COVID-19 vaccines which have received Emergency Use Listing.’ 

The group notes that since the pandemic began, children under age five have accounted for just two percent of global cases while those between ages five and 14 have made up seven percent of cases.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 deaths for under age 25 represent less than 0.5 percent of all virus-related fatalities worldwide.

‘Children and adolescents usually demonstrate fewer and milder symptoms of SARS-CoV-2 infection compared to adults and are less likely than adults to experience severe COVID-19,’ the WHO added.

A recent study led by the CDC found that children are just as likely to contract as adults are, but cases in minors are significantly more likely to be asymptomatic;

Researchers found that 50 percent of kids show symptoms compared to nearly 90 percent of over-18s.

Children can experience ‘long COVID-19’ with prolonged symptoms but this was still under investigation, the WHO said.

The WHO says that making sure residents of poorer countries get vaccinated is ‘a matter of global equity.’ Pictured: Residents have their temperature scanned at Mbagathi Hospital during a Covid-19 vaccination drive in Nairobi, Kenya, July 2021

Several risk factors for severe COVID-19 in children have been reported including older age, obesity and pre-existing conditions including type 2 diabetes, asthma and heart disease, it added.

Maintaining education for all school-aged children should be an important priority during the pandemic, although transmission mitigation measures might be needed in schools, the WHO said.

But several low- and middle-income countries around the world – such as in Africa -have vaccinated fewer than 10 percent of their populations, let alone kids.

In Kenya, just 7.4 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose.

In Cameroon, just 2.6 percent have been given an initial shot while just 1.6 percent have in South Sudan. 

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

‘As children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults, unless they are in a group at higher risk of severe COVID-19, it is less urgent to vaccinate them than older people, those with chronic health conditions and health workers.’ 

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