Spain, Italy vaccinate kids as WHO warns of Omicron’s ‘unprecedented’ spread

Madrid Desk, Dec 15 (EFE).- Spain launched vaccination drives Wednesday to inoculate children aged 5 to 11 in a bid to curb rising infections as the Omicron variant sweeps across Europe.

Almost 3.3 million children will be vaccinated in Spanish health centers, schools and pavilions that have been set up with the sole purpose of delivering vaccines.

The first batch of 1.3 million doses of pediatric Pfizer vaccines have been deployed, according to data from the Ministry of Health Spanish.

Children under the age of 11 will receive a third of the adult dose in two jabs eight weeks apart.

Pfizer’s pediatric vaccinations have a 90.7% proven efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 in clinical trials. The younger age group also recorded a lower rate of reaction to the jab than in people aged 16 to 25.

Infection rates among children under 12 is the highest in the country with 648 infections per 100,000 inhabitants, according to data recorded in the last 14 days. The average infection rate across other age groups is 412 per 00,0000, according to official data.

Meanwhile, people who are over the age of 60 or were inoculated with the Janssen vaccine can now opt to get their third booster jab.

Spain has a high vaccination takeup with almost 90% of its more than 47 million inhabitants with the full inoculation, but the recent spike in infections and concerns rates could continue to escalate over the Christmas holidays has prompted most regional authorities to adopt new measures including the use of covid passports to access public spaces like restaurants, gyms, hospitals or nursing homes.

The country has recorded 88,542 deaths and 5,366,128 infections since the start of the pandemic.

Spain is not the first European country to start vaccinating children aged 5 to 11. France and Finland have already started vaccinating children under 12 with severe pathologies or risk factors. Germany and Austria kicked off their vaccination campaigns for minors earlier this month.

Italy will start its official vaccination drive for children aged 5 to 11 on Thursday with 1.5 million doses distributed across Italian health centers while some regions including Lazio on Wednesday offered an ‘Open Day’ for under 12s to get vaccinated without an appointment.

As countries in Europe roll out booster shot campaigns and begin jabbing children, the World Health Organisation has urged them and other developed nations to contribute more to its Covax vaccine distribution mechanism.

The body’s secretary-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, pointed out that “we lack evidence for the effectiveness of boosters against” the Omicron variant, which he said was “probably in most countries, even if it hasn’t been detected yet.

“Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant,” he warned.

“We’re concerned that people are dismissing Omicron as mild. Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril. Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems,” Tedros told a media briefing late Tuesday. EFE


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