World Health Organization vaccine experts revised their global Covid-19 recommendations. Healthy kids and teens considered low priority might not need a shot.
According to the World Health Organization’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization, (SAGE), the updated roadmap prioritizes Covid-19 vaccinations for those who are at highest risk of severe illness and death.
The group said that the vaccine is being released to reflect the Omicron phase of the pandemic, and due to the high levels of immunity in the population of many countries as a result of vaccinations and infections.
The new recommendations are based on groups at high, medium and low risk.
SAGE recommends that high-priority populations such as older adults, immunocompromised individuals of any age, front-line healthcare workers, and pregnant women receive additional booster doses six to 12 months following their last booster.
The group does not recommend additional boosters for those with a medium-risk. This group includes adolescents and children with health risks, as well as healthy adults younger than 60 years.
The group suggested that countries consider vaccinations for healthy children aged six months to seventeen years, based on factors like disease burden and cost effectiveness.
SAGE stated in a recent press release that the public health benefits of vaccinations are much lower for healthy children and adolescents than those of the traditional essential vaccines such as measles and rotavirus conjugate vaccines.
The group stated that its vaccine advice is based on the current epidemiological conditions, and may change if pandemic changes.
This comes at a time when countries are making their individual decisions about vaccine recommendations, based on vaccine supplies and progress.
US officials are, for instance, deciding whether or not to give people at high-risk of severe Covid-19 another bivalent booster. Canada and the United Kingdom have allowed certain people to receive a second bivalent booster.
Experts have also identified competing health priorities in relation to vaccinations.
'As everyone knows, the Covid epidemic has had a serious impact on immunization programmes,' said Dr. Hanna Nohynek, SAGE chair, on Tuesday.
It's been an enormous effort and many countries have achieved high coverage levels. However, it still requires efforts to reduce inequities and reach high priority groups. We also need to close coverage gaps.
Nohynek stated that children need to catch up with routine vaccinations they missed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
She cited the increasing cases of measles in all WHO regions and said that immunization programmes around the globe must be strengthened. Measles can be a 'tracer', or an indication that there are other vaccine-preventable illnesses in a community.
WHO's vaccine advisors suggest increasing the coverage of immune vaccines and adding a dose to injectable polio vaccination when there is persistent poliovirus circulate.