According to the World Health Organization, vaccinating children is not a priority because they are at a much lower risk of contracting severe COVID-19 infection than older adults.
The WHO Chief Scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, added that there are limited doses of COVID-19 vaccines and that the most vulnerable must be protected during an interview session titled ‘Science in 5′ and posted on its YouTube channel.
Dr. Swaminathan stated, “The reason why the WHO says vaccinating children is not a priority in June 2021 is that children, while they can become infected with COVID-19 and transmit the infection to others, have a much lower risk of developing the severe disease when compared to older adults.”
And that is why when we started prioritising people who should get the vaccination when there are limited supplies of vaccines available in the country, we recommend that we start with health care workers and front line workers with a very high risk of exposure to the infection.
Also, the elderly, the people who have underlying illnesses that make them at high risk to developing severe disease and start with those groups; protect them first because we want to reduce the death rates.
And then gradually come down age-wise in the population till we get to children.
The Chief Scientist, on the other hand, stated that while some children may be at high risk of contracting the severe disease due to underlying illnesses, vulnerability, or co-morbidities, those children may be prioritized for vaccines when they become available, but children as a group form a much lower priority group.
When asked if WHO will recommend vaccination for children in the future, the expert stated that most vaccine companies and developers are currently conducting studies in children ranging in age from 12 to 18 years old and gradually progressing to younger age groups.
“So, as that scientific data comes out of the studies, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts will look at this data as it comes and make recommendations on how the vaccine should be used in children.
“We have limited doses of vaccines, we need to use them to protect the most vulnerable,” she said.
She went on to say that children do not need to be vaccinated before returning to school.
“We’ve seen in many countries that schools have been kept open very successfully and as long as the adults who are working in the school environment are vaccinated and adults in the community are getting the vaccines so that infection rates are dropping, then by following the other public health methods that have been advised for school safety, schools should be able to open safely,” Swaminathan said.