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Vaccination of children with COVID-19 “is not a high priority” amid shortages, says WHO

The World Health Organization’s top vaccine expert said on Thursday that immunizing children against COVID-19 is not an important WHO priority, given the extremely limited global supply of doses.

During a social media session, Dr. Kate O’Brien said that children should not be the focus of COVID-19 immunization programs, although an increasing number of rich countries are allowing their coronavirus photos for teenagers and children.

“Children have a very, very low risk of real COVID,” said O’Brien, a pediatrician and director of the WHO Vaccines Division. She said the rationale for immunizing children was to stop the transmission instead of protecting them from illness or death.

“When we are in this really difficult place, as we are at the moment, where the supply of vaccines is insufficient for everyone in the world, immunizing children is not a high priority at the moment.”



O’Brien said it was crucial to ensure that health workers and the elderly or those with an underlying disease were inoculated before teenagers and children.

Canada, the United States and the European Union have recently given the green light to some COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 12 to 15 as they approach their adult vaccination targets.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gebrees called on rich countries to donate photos to poor countries instead of immunizing their adolescents and children. Less than 1% of the COVID-19 vaccines administered worldwide have been used in poor countries.


O’Brien said it may be appropriate to immunize children against the coronavirus “after a time when supply has increased much more significantly.” She added that it is not necessary to vaccinate children before sending them back to school, as long as the adults who come in contact with them are immunized.

“Immunizing children to bring them back to school is not a basic requirement for their safe return to school,” she said. “They can go back to school safely if what we’re doing is immunizing those around them who are at risk.”

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