2021-09-14 13:04:28 Cuba to Give Covid Vaccines to 2-Year-Olds

Cuba to Give Covid Vaccines to 2-Year-Olds

This week, Cuba will begin immunizing children as young as two against the coronavirus, making it the only country to do so thus far. Covid-19 vaccinations are currently permitted for children aged 12 and up in the United States and many European countries.

Later this year, US regulators may approve a vaccine for children aged 5 to 12. Chile has begun immunization of children aged 6 and up. Children as young as three are now being vaccinated in China and the United Arab Emirates.

The Center for State Control of Medicines and Medical Devices, Cuba’s health regulator, approved pediatric vaccination in early September. The country began immunizing 13- to 17-year-olds last week. Coronavirus cases are rapidly increasing in Cuba as the Delta variant spreads across the island.

Cuba recently reported an average of 70 new infections per 100,000 residents, which is one of the highest rates in the Western Hemisphere. Soberana 2 and Soberana Plus, two vaccines developed in Cuba, are being used to immunize children.

Clinical trials in adults, and to a lesser extent in children, have revealed that the combination is more than 90% effective at protecting against the coronavirus, according to Cuban officials.

However, no data from the trials have been published in international peer-reviewed journals. In June, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, assistant director of the Pan American Health Organization, a division of the World Health Organization, urged Cuba to “publish the data in a transparent manner.”

The Cuban program has “a lot of things going for it, there is a need, and they are using established technology,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

“However, I have reservations about the level of regulatory oversight.” Cuban scientists said they had submitted papers to peer-reviewed journals and were waiting for them to be published.

They emphasized that the Soberana vaccines employ a technology similar to that used in Cuba’s vaccines against other diseases. “This is not an RNA vaccine with no history being given to children,” said Dr. Vicente Vérez, the vaccines’ lead developer.

Early trials in children revealed only minor side effects and “a high degree of safety, which is the most important,” according to Dr. José Moya, Pan American Health Organization representative in Cuba.

During the majority of the pandemic, schools in Cuba were closed, and the high cost of internet access made online learning impossible for most children. Officials and disgruntled parents are eager to get their children back to school, but the reopening of classrooms has been repeatedly postponed.

So far, 56 percent of Cubans have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, with 37 percent fully vaccinated. By December, the country’s health ministry hopes to have vaccinated more than 90% of the population.

The pandemic has strained Cuba’s renowned health-care system. A lack of medicines, medical oxygen, and coronavirus tests has heightened social tensions, sparking anti-government demonstrations in July.

Last month, Mexico sent oxygen to Cuba, and activists in the United States sent two million syringes. Economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration have slowed vaccination efforts by making imports more difficult and expensive.

Soberana 2 production was halted for several weeks in the spring due to a shortage of a critical component, according to Dr. Vérez.

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Cuba to Give Covid Vaccines to 2-Year-Olds