After long maintaining that vaccinating young children against COVID-19 wasn’t necessary, the federal government on Tuesday announced that it will offer shots to minors aged five to 11.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said that children in that age bracket (or their parents) will be eligible to register their interest in getting vaccinated on the government’s vaccination website starting this Thursday. They will be vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, he said.
“There is a new change in the national policy against COVID-19,” López-Gatell told reporters at President López Obrador’s regular news conference. “… A contract has already been signed with the company Pfizer for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, of which we’re going to purchase about 8 million doses that will allow us to begin this vaccination process.”
López-Gatell, who has led the government’s pandemic response since the first coronavirus cases were detected here in early 2020, said the dates on which young children will be able to get a shot will differ depending on the municipality in which they live. “You have to be attentive to the official announcement in each municipality, it won’t be simultaneous in the whole country,” he said.
The announcement comes after the government extended its national COVID-19 vaccination campaign to children aged 12 to 15 in late April. Health officials had previously asserted that inoculating younger adolescents and kids – with the exception of those aged 12 to 14 with underlying health problems – was not necessary.
The probability of a healthy child getting seriously ill or dying from COVID is “very, very low,” 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.
A court ruling in February may have contributed to the government’s decision to offer vaccines to primary school-aged children. 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.
Mexico is well behind many other countries in offering COVID-19 vaccines to young children. The United States and Canada, for example, began offering Pfizer shots to children aged five to 11 last November. Doses administered to kids in that age cohort are one-third the size of those given to adolescents and adults.
While young children haven’t yet had the opportunity to get vaccinated, the uptake among the eligible population has been high. The federal Health Ministry reported Monday that 91% of adults – over 81 million people – have been vaccinated with at least one shot. It said in a statement that 7.2 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 have also been vaccinated, and that 66% of adults have had at least one booster shot.
The Health Ministry also reported that an average of 3,109 new infections was reported per day in the seven-day period from June 5 to 11. New case numbers have increased recently as a fifth wave of infections spreads across the country, but COVID-19 fatalities remain relatively low and occupancy levels in hospital COVID wards are extremely low. Over 6,000 new cases and 42 COVID-19 deaths were registered Saturday before reported numbers dipped on Sunday and Monday, as has occurred throughout the pandemic due to a drop-off in testing and/or the recording and reporting of test results on weekends.
There are currently 37,690 estimated active cases across Mexico, a 58% increase compared to a week ago, official data shows. Mexico City has the highest number of active cases with over 11,500 followed by Sinaloa with more than 3,600 and México state with just under 2,750.
On a per capita basis, Baja California Sur is currently dealing with the largest outbreak with over 180 active cases per 100,000 people. Mexico City ranks second with about 130 active cases per 100,000 residents followed by Sinaloa with almost 120, Quintana Roo with just under 80 and Yucatán with almost 70.
Mexico’s accumulated tally of confirmed cases is 5.82 million – a figure that is widely accepted as a vast undercount – while the official COVID-19 death toll is 325,205, a number that is also considered a significant underestimate. Based on official data, Mexico has the 32nd highest COVID mortality rate in the world with 254 deaths per 100,000 people. Peru ranks first followed by Bulgaria and Hungary.
With reports from El Universal