No Evidence That Healthy Children And Adolescents Need Covid-19 Boosters: WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Jan 20, 2022 02:10 PM +05:30 IST
No Evidence That Healthy Children And Adolescents Need Covid-19 Boosters: WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan Dr Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at WHO (Image: WHO)
Snapshot
  • WHO's chief scientist said that there is no evidence currently to suggest that healthy children and adolescents need booster doses, and that the priority is to protect the most vulnerable of the population.

The chief scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO) Soumya Swaminathan has said that there is no indication that healthy children and adolescents need booster doses of Covid-19 vaccination at this time.

During WHO media briefing, Swaminathan said that while vaccine immunity against the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus appears to be fading with time, further research is needed to determine who requires booster doses. She said: "there is no evidence right now that healthy children or healthy adolescents need boosters. No evidence at all.”

According to Swaminathan, the agency's advisory committee, known as SAGE, or the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, will meet later this week to discuss how countries should approach booster doses.

“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,” she said.

Additionally, during the press conference, the WHO's health emergency programme executive director, Dr Michael Ryan, said the organisation still hasn't figured out how often or how many dosages people will require in the end.

He said: “I think people do have a certain fear out there that this booster thing is going to be like every two or three months and everyone’s going to have to go and get a booster. And I don’t think we have the answer to that yet.”

Scientists may eventually redefine the number of doses required in the primary series of Covid shots, said Ryan. While most healthy people only require two doses, the elderly or immunocompromised may require three or four, according to him.

The statements from Swaminathan and Ryan come only two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States approved booster doses for teenagers aged 12 to 17 in the wake of a recent spike in coronavirus illnesses linked to the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

According to the CDC website, on 4 January it said the agency has updated its advice for when many people can get a booster shot, moving it from 6 months to 5 months for those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. This means that 5 months after finishing the Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, individuals can have an mRNA booster shot. The recommended booster interval for persons who received the J&J vaccine (2 months) or the Moderna vaccine (6 months) has remained unchanged, the website noted.

CDC also recommended that “moderately or severely immunocompromised 5–11-year-olds receive an additional primary dose of vaccine 28 days after their second shot. At this time, only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized and recommended for children aged 5-11.”

As per the website, CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky said: “Following the FDA’s authorizations, today’s recommendations ensure people are able to get a boost of protection in the face of Omicron and increasing cases across the country and ensure that the most vulnerable children can get an additional dose to optimize protection against Covid-19.”

“If you or your children are eligible for a third dose or a booster, please go out and get one as soon as you can. Additionally, FDA took action this week to authorize boosters for 12 to 15-year-olds,” she added.

Separately, Israel has begun offering boosters to children as young as 12, while last week Germany became the latest country to suggest that all children aged 12 to 17 get a Covid-19 booster dose and Hungary has also recommended the same.

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