Children are infected with COVID, but they are not yet a vaccine priority: PAHO

Children and adolescents can become infected with COVID-19 and even die, but many of the Latin American countries have not yet vaccinated the most vulnerable sectors of the population and that should be the priority, the Pan American Health Organization said on Wednesday ( OPS).

“Many countries in the region still need to expand vaccination in the most vulnerable groups. That is undoubtedly the highest priority.”

“COVID-19 can make children and adolescents seriously ill,” said PAHO Director Carissa Etienne. “The risks increase with age, and when they are older adolescents, young people have the same possibilities of transmitting the virus as adults,” he said.

However, since most of the countries in the region have vaccinated only 30% of the population without even reaching all of the most vulnerable sectors, the priority in immunization should be in the elderly, medical personnel and health, and sick people.

“Many countries in the region still need to expand vaccination in the most vulnerable groups,” underlined the deputy director of PAHO, Jarbas Barbosa. “That is without a doubt the highest priority.”

The statements took place at the virtual press conference that the organization offers every week from Washington, at a time when the Delta variant has been more contagious and some countries have started classes in person and have seen an increase in cases of sick among minors.

In 2020, more than 1.5 million children and adolescents became ill with COVID-19 in the Americas, but the number has risen to 1.9 million in the first nine months of 2021, according to PAHO statistics compiled with information provided by the countries.

“We have to be clear: children and young adults also face a significant risk of death from COVID,” Etienne said, explaining that as more older people get vaccinated, unimmunized children account for a higher percentage of hospitalizations and even in deaths.

But because the doses have not been evenly distributed, “there is still a lot of work to do to reach all those who need the vaccines,” he said.

In the Americas region, which has been the global epicenter of the pandemic for months, there was a 20% increase in cases in the last week, despite the fact that the situation has improved in much of the countries of South America.

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