Friday, November 24, 2023

Judge orders health authorities to vaccinate youths aged 12-17 against COVID

A judge has ordered the federal government to offer COVID-19 vaccines to all youths aged 12 to 17.

Health authorities have so far only inoculated minors who obtained injunctions ordering their vaccination while the government announced last month it would offer vaccines to more than 1 million children with health conditions that make them vulnerable to serious illness.

But there are no plans to vaccinate all youths in the 12-17 age bracket.

However, a México state-based federal judge ordered health authorities to modify the national vaccination policy (PNV) to include all minors between those ages. The judge ruled that the youths must be immunized with the Pfizer vaccine, the only shot that has been approved for the inoculation of children in Mexico, and that any attempt to justify not altering the PNV on the grounds that there was a shortage of Pfizer vaccines would not be valid.

The ruling came in response to an injunction request filed by the family of a girl seeking her vaccination. The judge determined there was no impediment to an order applying to all youths because access to health care is a universal human right.

The government has until Thursday to comply with the order, which would benefit some 10 million Mexican minors.

However, the federal Health Ministry could choose to challenge the injunction, a move that would prompt a review process that could take weeks.

President López Obrador has maintained that the government won’t vaccinate minors en masse until international health authorities recommend it.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults, so unless they are part of a group at higher risk of severe COVID-19, it is less urgent to vaccinate them than older people, those with chronic health conditions and health workers.”

“More evidence is needed on the use of the different COVID-19 vaccines in children to be able to make general recommendations on vaccinating children against COVID-19,” WHO says on its COVID-19 vaccine advice webpage. Its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts has concluded that the Pfizer vaccine is suitable for use by minors aged 12 years and above.

“Children aged between 12 and 15 who are at high risk may be offered this vaccine alongside other priority groups for vaccination. Vaccine trials for children are ongoing, and WHO will update its recommendations when the evidence or epidemiological situation warrants a change in policy.”

Speaking in Durango last Friday, López Obrador said that a census is currently underway to identify children who qualify for vaccination due to an underlying health condition.

“And when the world’s health organizations authorize vaccination for children who don’t have any illness, we’ll vaccinate them as well,” he said, adding that the government won’t do so beforehand due to the risk of “causing harm” to minors.

The president also opined that booster shots are not needed for fully vaccinated people.

“We have to be careful because what pharmaceutical companies want … is to sell more vaccines. So they issue propaganda saying there is a need for another vaccine [dose],” López Obrador said.

Almost three-quarters of Mexican adults have received at least one dose, and the government intends to have offered a shot to everyone aged 18 and over by the end of October.

With reports from Reforma and Milenio

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