Italy has opened up vaccines for children over 12 with many other European countries expected to follow suit after the EU approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in young people last week – but experts have warned that vaccines could be better used elsewhere.
The approval of the vaccine for all people over 12 by the European Medical Agency on Friday followed similar moves from the US and Canada, but the UK has yet to make an announcement similar.
There has been some controversy over the prospect of vaccinating young people because they are barely suffering from COIVD-19 and many countries have only just started their deployment and are in desperate need of vaccines.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged rich countries to look to the global COVAX program instead.
Which EU countries have approved the Pfizer jab for 12-18 year olds?
So far, seven EU countries have said they will offer vaccines to 12-year-olds, most aiming to start deployment by mid-June.
Hungary has offered vaccines to 16-year-olds since mid-May, but has not announced a date when that number will be lowered to 12.
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Italy began distributing the vaccine to children over 12 years old on Thursday.
France will begin immunizing children aged 12 and over with Pfizer’s vaccine on June 15, the government said earlier this week as it seeks to avoid school closures in September.
Germany and Poland plan to offer the first injection to children aged 12 to 16 from June 7.
Lithuania has announced that it will offer vaccines to children aged 12 and over in June.
Estonia has announced that it will offer vaccines to children from this fall.
Austria has announced plans to vaccinate more than 340,000 children between the ages of 12 and 15 by the end of August, but no official start date has been announced.
Several non-EU European countries like Switzerland and Norway have said they are considering vaccinating children aged 12 and over.
What did the UK say about childhood immunizations?
Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi, when asked about childhood immunizations, told Sky News: “Some children get severe Covid and long Covid, but overall you will immunize to protect families, community and health public. “
He said it had to be “incredibly safe” for children to be vaccinated before he said: “It is right that we ask (the Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization) to give us advice on whether or not to. or not to start vaccinating between 12 and 15 years old. old – the Pfizer vaccine is available for ages 16 and over – but we will be waiting for both the regulator and JCVI. “
Experts said that deciding whether or not to give injections to children is a matter that requires balancing the broader benefits against the direct benefits for young people.
Some scientists have warned against vaccinating children, saying it raises complex ethical issues and the vaccines could be used elsewhere.
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Professor Adam Finn of the University of Bristol told The Guardian: “Children transmit the Covid to some extent, although they rarely suffer from the disease themselves.
“If you offer them vaccines, you expose them to possible side effects – so there really has to be a significant and tangible benefit for them, not just the indirect protection of adults from COVID-19. “
What did the WHO say?
The World Health Organization’s leading vaccine expert said Thursday that immunizing children against COVID-19 was not a high priority.
Dr Kate O’Brien said children should not be at the center of COVID-19 vaccine deployments because there is such a shortage of vaccines around the world.
She said: “When we are in this really difficult place, as we are now, where the vaccine supply is insufficient for everyone in the world, immunizing children is not a priority at the moment.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for more vaccines to be given to the poorest countries and called the global inequality of the deployment “grotesque”.
Dr O’Brien said there may be a time when it makes sense to vaccinate children, but said the priority right now should be healthcare professionals and older people around the world.