Amid rising demands to vaccinate children against coronavirus infection, World Health Organisation (WHO) Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan has said that there is “no evidence at all” that healthy children need to receive Covid-19 boosters.
During a press briefing on Tuesday, she said, “The aim is to protect the most vulnerable, to protect those at highest risk of severe disease and dying, those are our elderly population, immunocompromised with underlying conditions and also health care workers.”
“There is no evidence right now that healthy children or healthy adolescents need boosters. No evidence at all,” Hindustan Times quoted her as saying.
She said more research needs to be done to ascertain who needs booster doses against coronavirus infection.
The statement comes at a time when several countries have started vaccinating booster doses to people in view of the waning immunity from the primary two shots and inoculating Covid vaccines to children and adolescents too. Getting vaccinated reduces the severity of the infection and less serious illnesses mean fewer deaths and less pressure on medical infrastructure.
The US has recently approved administering Covid booster doses to kids. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of a third dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine as a “booster” dose for children between 12 to 15 years of age.
‘EXPECT MORE WORRISOME VARIANTS AFTER OMICRON’
Scientists warn that Omicrons whirlwind advance practically ensures it won’t be the last version of the coronavirus to worry the world. Every infection provides a chance for the virus to mutate, and Omicron has an edge over its predecessors: It spreads way faster despite emerging on a planet with a stronger patchwork of immunity from vaccines and prior illness.
That means more people in whom the virus can further evolve. Experts don’t know what the next variants will look like or how they might shape the pandemic, but they say there’s no guarantee the sequels of Omicron will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them.
It’s why they urge wider vaccination now, while today’s shots still work. “The faster Omicron spreads, the more opportunities there are for mutation, potentially leading to more variants,” Leonardo Martinez, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Boston University, was quoted as saying by Associated Press.
‘Pandemic Nowhere Near Over’
The Covid-19 pandemic is far from over, the World Health Organization chief said Tuesday, cautioning against a narrative that the fast-spreading Omicron variant is risk-free. “This pandemic is nowhere near over,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters from WHO’s headquarters in Geneva.
Tedros warned against dismissing as mild the coronavirus variant Omicron, which has spread like wildfire around the globe since it was first detected in southern Africa in November.
The Omicron variant of Covid-19 is much more contagious than previous strains but seems to cause less serious disease.
Tedros said there was an urgent need to remove the pressure building on health systems, especially in countries that still have low vaccination coverage. “Now is not the time to give up and wave the white flag,” he said.
“We can still significantly reduce the impact of the current wave by sharing and using health tools effectively, and implementing public health and social measures that we know work.”
Data indicate that existing Covid vaccines are less effective in protecting against Omicron transmission than against previous strains.
But Tedros stressed it remained vital to ensure broader, more equitable access to the jabs. “Vaccines may be less effective at preventing infection and transmission of Omicron than they were for previous variants, but they still are exceptionally good at preventing serious disease and death,” he said.
(with inputs from agencies)