Sunday, February 25, 2024

Health officials do about-face, announce vaccination of 15 to 17-year-olds

The federal government has made a significant change to its national COVID-19 vaccination strategy, announcing Tuesday that it will offer shots to all youths aged 15 to 17.

Health officials have been saying for months that there is a lack of evidence showing that vaccination for minors is necessary. Health Minister Jorge Alcocer even said that vaccinating children could have a “limiting” effect on the development of their immune systems.

But Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell set aside such concerns on Tuesday morning, telling President López Obrador’s regular news conference that adolescents aged 15 to 17 will be able to preregister for a shot on the government’s vaccination website starting this Friday.

He didn’t say when the shots would begin nor did he offer a detailed explanation as to why the government had changed its policy.

López-Gatell did, however, say that the risk of COVID complications begins to increase from the age of 15, although the likelihood of teenagers getting seriously ill remains very low.

The deputy minister said that just under 9,500 people between the ages of 15 and 19 died last year but only 249 of those deaths were caused by COVID.

“This shows that … the risk of dying of COVID for adolescents is very significantly less than dying of other very common risks for that age [group],” López-Gatell said, apparently referring to dangers such as accidents.

The modification of the vaccination policy partially complies with a court order instructing the government to vaccinate all youths aged 12 to 17. It comes as something of a surprise given health officials’ past remarks and an announcement last week that the Health Ministry was challenging the injunction.

The government to date has only offered vaccines to minors aged 12 to 17 if they have an underlying health condition that makes them vulnerable to serious disease.

López-Gatell said that some 1 million children with health conditions were expected to come forward to get a shot, but less than 10% of that figure have turned up at vaccination centers. Minors are getting shots of the Pfizer vaccine, the only vaccine approved for use on children in Mexico.

With reports from El Economista 

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