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Chinas children may be in line for COVID-19 vaccines

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TAIPEI, Taiwan If China is to meet its premature goal of vaccinating 80% of its population against coronavirus by the end of the year, tens of millions of children may need to start rolling up their sleeves.

Regulators took the first step last week by approving the use of the Sinovac country vaccine for children aged 3 to 17, and on Friday announced the same for the Sinopharm vaccine. No shooting date has been set.

Children are largely spared from the pandemic, becoming more easily infected than adults and exhibiting less severe symptoms when they catch the virus. But experts say children can still transmit the virus to others, and some note that if countries are to achieve herd immunity through their vaccination campaigns, inoculating children should be part of the plan.

Vaccination of children is an important step forward, said Jin Dong-yan, a virologist at Hong Kong University Medical School.

Doing so, however, may be easier said than done for reasons ranging from vaccine reluctance to vaccine availability.

The COVID-19 vaccine is manufactured at a factory of the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac in Beijing on September 24, 2020.
The COVID-19 vaccine is manufactured at a factory of the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac in Beijing on September 24, 2020.
AP

Even in countries with adequate vaccines, some governments have trouble convincing adults that shootings are safe and necessary, despite studies showing they are. Such concerns can be amplified when dealing with newer societies.

There is also the issue of approval. Few regulators worldwide have rated the safety of COVID-19 shots in children, with most shots approved for adults only now. But approvals are beginning. The United States, Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong are all allowing the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children as young as 12 years old.

Announcements by Sinovac and Sinopharm could pave the way for vaccines, already in use in dozens of countries from Brazil to Indonesia, to be given to children around the world.

In Thailand, where Sinovac makes most of the country’s vaccines, Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul welcomed the news that China had approved the use of emergency for children.

“Once approved, we are ready to provide the vaccine to cover all ages,” Anutin said Monday.

Residents are awaiting observation after receiving COVID-19 vaccines at a vaccination site on June 9, 2021 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
Residents are awaiting observation after receiving COVID-19 vaccines at a vaccination site on June 9, 2021 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
Getty Images

Other vaccine manufacturers are also working to expand access to young people. Moderna is seeking permission to use its intent on 12-year-olds like Pfizer. Both companies have developmental studies in both children and younger children, up to the age of 6 months.

Another hurdle to vaccinating children is that many countries are still struggling to get enough doses to inoculate their adult populations at higher risk. Thailand, for example, has only vaccinated 4% of its population so far, and adult demand for vaccines exceeds supply.

For now, given vaccine shortages, any available vaccine should be placed on age-based prioritization and risk-based priority, said Jerome Kim, head of the International Vaccine Institute in Seoul. It’s really important to get this vaccine in the right places right now.

In many countries there are also concerns among the public about the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines against Western rivals. While efficacy scales cannot be directly compared, due to trials performed under different conditions, western vaccines have been shown to be very effective in preventing infection in real-world tests. Shot synovacs have been shown to be effective in preventing serious illness and hospitalization. Sinopharms shooting has revealed comparatively less data.

A woman and child wearing period costumes board a bus providing COVID-19 vaccination outside the Forbidden City in Beijing on April 14, 2021.
A woman and child wearing period costumes board a bus providing COVID-19 vaccination outside the Forbidden City in Beijing on April 14, 2021.
AP

The World Health Organization has approved both vaccines for emergency use in adults aged 18 and over, paving the way for its use in global programs aimed at delivering vaccines to low- and middle-income countries. The WHO has not provided any indication of when it can approve it for young people.

Vaccines are often approved separately for adults and children because newer immune systems may respond differently to doses. Experts say inactivated vaccines are usually considered safe for children, as the technology has been used for a long time, such as in mandatory child immunization programs, and have shown low risk.

Nikolai Petrovsky, a vaccine expert at Flinders University in Australia, said that while it is reasonable to assume that vaccines would be safe for children, he questioned the need to vaccinate them against a virus that they are relatively immune to. use of a vaccine that has not yet been shown blocks transmission.

This photo taken on June 3, 2021 shows a resident receiving a Sinovac Covid-19 corovavirus vaccine in Rongan, in China's southern Guangxi region.
This photo taken on June 3, 2021 shows a resident receiving a Sinovac Covid-19 corovavirus vaccine in Rongan, in China’s southern Guangxi region.
AFP through Getty Images

“As far as I know, there is no evidence to suggest that the Sinovac vaccine will block transmission to children,” he wrote in an email. Without such evidence we should ask why we are immunizing children.

China has a population of 1.4 billion, which means it has to inoculate 560 million people to achieve its 40% vaccination goal by June and 1.12 billion people to reach the 80% goal. It will be difficult to do the latter without vaccinating many of her 254 million children under the age of 14.

When China starts inoculating children will be determined by governments National Health Commission according to the situation of the epidemic, CEO of Sinovac Yin Weidong told state broadcaster CCTV last week.

A Sinovac spokesman did not respond to a call for comment. The Chinas National Health Commission led the AP in a news report summarizing Yins’ comments.

Yin Weidong, CEO of Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac, talks about predicting COVID-19 infections and vaccines at a news conference during a tour of a vaccine factory in Beijing on September 24, 2020.
Yin Weidong, CEO of Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac, talks about predicting COVID-19 infections and vaccines at a news conference during a tour of a vaccine factory in Beijing on September 24, 2020.
AP

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