Saturday, December 2, 2023

In major reversal, government will administer COVID vaccine to children under 15

The federal government will offer COVID-19 vaccines to children under 15, state governors revealed Monday after a meeting with President López Obrador.

Governors told reporters outside the National Palace they were advised that the government has ordered a shipment of Pfizer vaccines to be administered to younger children, who have not yet had the opportunity to get a shot.

They didn’t say whether all children aged five and over will qualify, but health regulator Cofepris has given the green light for vaccines to be administered to minors who are at least five.

Hidalgo Governor Omar Fayad said the government would acquire the Pfizer shots via COVAX, a World Health Organization-backed initiative for equitable vaccine distribution.

“I don’t know how many doses [will arrive] but they said that US $78 million has already been paid to the United Nations,” he said.

Querétaro Governor Mauricio Kuri made similar remarks, telling reporters that “the president told us that he’s ordering the vaccines … for children.”

Durango Governor José Rosas Aispuro noted that children will be inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine, the only shot approved by  Cofepris for use on minors.

The government’s decision is a significant policy reversal as health officials have asserted that inoculating younger adolescents and kids – with the exception of those aged 12 t0 14 with underlying health problems – is not necessary.

The probability of a healthy child getting seriously ill or dying from COVID is “very, very low,” Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said in January, while Health Minister Jorge Alcocer claimed twice that COVID-19 vaccines could inhibit the development of children’s immune systems.

But a court ruling in February may have contributed to the government’s decision to change tack. A federal court ruled that children aged 5 to 11 have the right to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, the ruling obliged parents to go to court and obtain an injunction to access vaccines for their young sons and daughters.

About two-thirds of all Mexicans, including minors, are vaccinated against COVID with at least one shot, according to the most recent data. The vaccination rate could increase significantly once shots are offered to kids under 15 as there are almost 32 million children aged 0-14, data from the 2020 census shows.

The Health Ministry reported Monday that 193.9 million COVID-19 shots have been administered to 85.6 million people, 37.6 million of whom have received a booster dose.

The intensity of the pandemic in Mexico has eased significantly since the fourth omicron-fueled wave peaked in January.

Just 281 new cases and only two COVID-19 deaths were reported Monday – figures not seen since the very early days of the coronavirus outbreak in 2020.

Mexico’s accumulated case tally is 5.72 million –  of which just 5,844 are estimated to be active – while the official death toll is 323,727.  All 32 states are currently low risk green on the federal government’s coronavirus stoplight map.

With reports from El Universal and Reforma 

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